12 States Asking the Supreme Court to Disband California’s Egg Law

federal lawsTwelve California states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to disband one of their federal laws that currently requires any eggs sold there to come from hens who have space to stretch out within their cages.

Missouri Atty. Gen. Josh Hawley plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of the states. Allegedly, since the law took effect in 2015, it has cost consumers $350 million nationwide due to higher egg prices. The lawsuit will argue that California’s requirements violate the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause and are prevented by federal law.

California produced about 5 billion eggs in 2012 and imported an additional 4 billion from other states. However, the number of eggs California produced last year dropped to 3.5 billion despite rising nationally.

Hawley said in a statement the California legislative egg law is “a clear attempt by big-government proponents to impose job-killing regulations” on other states.

In 2008, California voters approved a ballot initiative that requires hens in cages to spend most of their day in spaces big enough to allow them to lie down, stand up, and turn around. Farmers had until 2015 to comply.

Shortly after, California egg farmers raised concerns about being at a competitive disadvantage. Because of this, state legislators expanded the law in 2010 to bar the sale of eggs from any hens that were raised in conditions violating California’s standards.

While the California law cites concerns about protecting consumers from illnesses such as salmonella, the suing states say such health concerns are unmerited.

How do California laws get changed?
Even though there have only been 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution since it was first signed, states change laws more frequently than that.

Like any state, California has a strict process for changing laws. Voters change federal laws by casting their vote on statewide ballot initiatives. However, a voter must first circulate a petition of the proposed change and get a certain amount of signatures.

Under state rules, the proponents of a petition have 150 days to gather enough signatures. After gathering the signed petitions, the elected officials in the counties where the signatures were gathered must receive copies of the petitions under state regulations.

As long as there are enough signatures, the petition officially becomes an initiative on the next statewide ballot under federal regulations. Once on the ballot, if enough voters approve the proposed change then it will become law.