The Supreme Court's 1999-2000 term opens at 10 a.m. today with a scant calendar of 43 cases that may spur more public and legal interest than last year's docket of 75.
By January, justices likely will accept another 30 or so appeals for review but they will open this "first Monday in October" session by announcing refusal to hear almost 1,900 petitions considered over the summer.
The term's dominant theme promises to be federalism - protection for the states from domination by Washington under the 10th and 11th amendments - building on last term's trend of 5-4 decisions returning power to states.
This time eight cases raise federalism issues as far afield as whether states should retain the role of punishing sex-related violence, have the prerogative to limit political contributions, should be allowed to market motor vehicle data, may ignore federal discrimination laws on age and disability, and can set standards for motor vehicle safety and shipping crews.
Other disputes involve racial barriers to the ballot box (including racial-classification restricting voters in …