A federal system is one in which the constitution divides powers between the central government and the sub divisional governments – states or provinces. Alternatives to federalism are unitary systems.
A federal system checks the growth of tyranny, allows unity without uniformity, encourages experimentation, permits power sharing between the national government and the states, and keeps government closer to the people.
Alternatives to federal systems are unitary systems in which all constitutional power is vested in the central government and loose compacts among sovereign states.
In the twenty-first century, nations are experimenting with forms of federalism because of the demand for greater autonomy by ethnic groups and others such as the countries of Western Europe have formed a European Union.
In the United States, the national government has the constitutional authority, stemming primarily from the national supremacy article (clause), from its powers to tax and spend and to regulate commerce among the states to tax and spend, and from its war powers, to do what Congress thinks is necessary and proper to promote the general welfare and to provide for the common defense. These constitutional pillars have permitted tremendous expansion of the functions of the federal government.
Congressional authority extends to all commerce that affects more than one state. Commerce includes the production, buying, selling, renting, and transporting of goods, services, and properties. The "Commerce Clause" is Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution. It gives Congress the power "to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." These few words confer on the federal government a constitutional justification for regulating a very wide range of human activity since few, if any, aspects of today’s economy affect commerce only in one state.
States must give full faith and credit to each other’s public acts, records, and judicial proceedings; extend to each other’s citizens the privileges and immunities it gives its own; and return fugitives from justice.
The "Full Faith and Credit Clause" is Article VI, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution. This article maintains that state courts must enforce the judgments of courts in other states and accept their public records and acts as valid. This clause became controversial in 1998 when courts in Hawaii permitted same-sex marriages. With presidential support, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which relieved other states from any obligation to honor Hawaiian gay marriages.
The federal courts umpire the division of power between the national and state governments. The Marshall Court, in decisions, such as Gibbons v. Ogden and McCulloch v. Maryland, asserted the power of the national government over the states and promoted a national economic common market. These decisions also reinforced the supremacy of the national government over the states.
Today debates about federalism are less often about its constitutional structure than over whether action should come from the national or state and local levels. Recent Supreme Court decisions favor a decentralist position and may presage (signal) a major shift in the court’s interpretation of the constitutional nature of our federal system.
The major instruments of federal intervention in state programs have been various kinds of financial grants-in-aid, of which the most prominent are categorical-formula grants, project grants, and block grants. The national government also imposes federal mandates and controls some activities of state and local governments by direct orders, cross-cutting requirements, cross-over sanctions in the use of federal funds, total preemption, and partial preemption.
Over the past 200 years there has been a drift of power (accrued) to the national government, but recently Congress has been pressured to reduce the size and scope of national programs and to shift some existing programs back to the states. While responsibility for welfare has been turned over to the states, the authority of the national government has increased in many other areas.
Devolution revolution: the effort to slow the growth of the federal government by returning many functions to the states.
Federalism: constitutional arrangement whereby power is distrubited between a central government and subdivisonal govts, called states in the US. The national and subdivisonal governments both exercise direct authority over individuals.
Unitary system: constitutional arrangement in which power is concentrated in a central government.
Confederation: constitutional arrangement in wich sovereign nations or states, by compact, create a central government but carefully limit its power and do not give it direct authority over individuals.
Express powers: powrs specifically granted to one of the branches of the national government by the constitution.
Implied powers: powers inferred from the express powers that allow congress to carry out its functions.
Necessary and proper clause: Clause of the constitution (article I, section 8, clause 18) setting forth the impied powers of congress. It states that congress, in addition to its express powers has the right to make all lawas necessary and proper for carrying out all powers vested by the constitution in the national government.
Inherent powers: the powers of the national government in the field of foreign affairs that the Supreme Court has declelared do not depend on the constitutional grants but rather grow out of the very existence of the national government.
Commerce clause: the clause in the constitution (article I, section 8, clause 3) that gives congress the power to regulate all business activites that cross state lines or affect more than one state or other nations.
Federal mandate: a requirement imposed by the federal government as a condition for the receipt of federal funds.
Concurrent powers: powers that the constitution gives to both the national and state governments, such as the power to levy taxes.
Full faith and credit clause: clause in the constitution (article IV, section 1) requiring each state to recognize the civil judgements rendered by the courts of the other states and to accpt their public records as valid.
Extradition: legal process whereby an alleged criminal offender is surrendered by the officals of one state to officials of the state in which the crime is alleged to have been committed.
Interstate compact: an agreement among two or more states. The constitution requires that most such agreements be approved by Congress.
National supremecy: constitutional doctorine that whenever conflict occurs between the constitutionally authorized actions of the national government and those of a state or local government, the actions of the federal government prevail.
Preemption: the right of a federal law or regulation to preclude enforcement of a state or local law or regulation.
Centralists: people who favor national action over action at the state and local levels.
Decentralists: people who favor state or local action rather than national action.
States’ rights: powers expressly or implicitiy reserved to the states and emphasized by decentralists.
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) page 54>
Flexibility Partnership Demonstration Act of 1999 page 56
Timeline: American Federalism page 56
Definitions of Federalism page 58
Global perceptions: the government controls too much of our daily l lives? Page 59
Picture comparison of Federalism and Confederation page 60
Why Federalism? page 60-62
Minorities and women in the workforce page 61
FYI: number of governments in the US page 62
Federal division of powers page 62
4 Constitutional pillars page 63
powers of the National Government page 63
FYI: an expanding nation page 64
Constitutional limiits and obligations of the states page 65
Three different approaches to Federalism page 67
Do we need a more restricted government in Washington? Page 68
McCulloch vs. Maryland page 68
Thinking it through: centralists vs. decetralists page 69
4 purposes of grants page 71
Peple and politics: Rehnquist page 72
Grants page 72 &73
New techniques of Federal Control page 74