Essay Example on the Balance between Federal and State Governments

Published: 2022-02-23
Essay Example on the Balance between Federal and State Governments
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  United States Federalism Constitution
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1443 words
13 min read

The concept of the balance of power found in the American system of federalism is bestowed on the principle of weighing the interests between the two entities that entail the federal as well as the state governments. Both entities have vested interests which work to shape and control the policies and governance practices of the US. The powers of each of the two bodies are normally outlined in the constitution of the United States at an enumerated federal level. Additionally, they have been enforced by the Supreme Court in various instances throughout the history of the United States jurisdiction. Therefore, although the Federal and State Governments of the US work as Separate entities aimed at serving different levels of government and interests, they all operate harmoniously under the US constitution and are all focused on serving the greater American population.

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The following essay illustrates the balance between the powers of the Federal and State governments as outlined in the US constitution. Understanding the way in which the balance is achieved underscores the comprehension of the historical formation of the Union that is now regarded as the United States of America which comprises 50 distinct states. The essay examines various landmark rulings by the US Supreme Court and how these rulings have shaped American politics as well as enhanced harmony and balance between the two levels of government. The second part of the essay illustrates the formation of the balance and shows the legislation that created it in order to form a shared measure of authority that remains the key control between the state and the federal governments. Finally, the essay concludes by discussing how the relationship continues to evolve into something that would never have been imagined in the beginning.

In 2010, the state of Arizona created a law that envisioned escalating the powers of local law enforcement intending to implement Federal laws of immigration. The case was called Arizona, et al., Petitioners v. the United States and was heard by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the US (Arizona v. the United States). The main issue in the case comprised the question of whether the law contradicted or intended to displace the powers and authorities of the Federal government in implementing policies of law enforcement (Foltin 25). The Supreme Court ruled that the law preempted some sections of the US constitution but left others intact and hence the law was upheld. In doing so, the Supreme Court acted in accordance with the law and upheld the balance between the state and the federal governments. Therefore, the state as well as the Federal government cannot come into conflict regarding the issue of local law enforcement because of clarity of the powers and functions of both governments.

A number of states in the US have approved the medicinal use of Marijuana even though Congress has not fully approved its use in the entire United States. In a 2005 case involving Gonzales v. Raich, the Supreme Court of the US ruled that Congress reserves the power to ban the use of the drug even in states that have approved its use (Gonzales v. Raich). Prior to the ruling, the voters of the state of California had passed proposition 215 in the year 1996 consequently legalizing the use of medical marijuana. The Defendant in the case, Angel Raich, had used homegrown Marijuana which although was legal at the time in the state of California, was still forbidden under Federal Law (Gonzales v. Raich). The ruling by the Supreme Court set the precedent that places Federal law above state law in an instance of conflict between the two laws and this further enhanced balance between the two levels of government.

The existence of a two-tier system of government means that funds are first collected by the Federal governments before being budgeted for and disbursed to the 50 state governments. In view of this, the Supreme Court ruled in the 1987 South Dakota v. Dole that Congress has the power to disburse the funds to the state governments and impose reasonable limitations concerning their use. The Court considered the manner in which the constitution limits the powers of Congress regarding the disbursement of funds and hence decided that it was only reasonable for Federal government to institute some limitations to the state governments owing to the supervisory role it plays (South Dakota v. Dole). Additionally, the court considered the way challenges Congress faces when it uses its authority to influences policies and laws originally set aside for the jurisdiction of the state government. In passing the ruling, the Supreme Court endeavored to enhance the level of balance between the state and Federal Governments.

Criminals are known to traverse states in a bid to hide their criminal activity or to remain anonymous and escape the reach of justice. In a country governed by a two-tier system of government, it can at times be challenging to take note of any such criminals and this may mean their ability to escape without trial. In view of the above scenario, the Supreme Court in 1985 ruled that the "double jeopardy" clause of the constitution does not forbid different states from arresting and charging people suspected of criminal activity that they had already been convicted and sentenced in another state (Heath v. Alabama). The decision meant that the Fifth Amendment does not prevent the Federal Government or individual state governments from prosecuting the same individual for different acts of crime that they had already been convicted thereby enhancing the balance between the state and the Federal governments.

As many would assume, some states may choose to go contrary to the opinion and the ruling of the Supreme Court for one reason or the other. At times, they may choose to do so because such decisions are not in their favor and this may cause conflict between the state and the federal government since the Supreme Court is a creation of the US Constitution which was originally born of the state and the Federal government. In view of the same, the Supreme Court in a 1958 case of Cooper v. Aaron ruled that state governments are bound by the decisions made by the US Supreme Court and cannot choose to go against them. The case involved the state of Arkansas in which they sought to delay disaggregation by a 30 month period (Cooper v. Aaron). The Supreme Court denied them this right and compelled them to act in accordance with its earlier ruling and in so doing, an enhanced balance between the state and the Federal government.

As naturally expected, different states may decide to practice commerce of business and may require an oversight authority to assist in setting the required precedent, policies, and laws. Additionally, different states may have different laws governing employment and this may be challenging for employees that move to work from one state to the other. In view of the above scenario, US Supreme Court, a 1941 case of United States v. Darby Lumber Co. ruled that Congress has the power to set and regulate the conditions for employment. The decision overturned the 1918 case of Hammer v. Dagenhart and confirmed the legality of the minimum wages held by the West Coast Hotel. Therefore, the case not only set a precedent but also ensured that there is harmony between the state and the Federal Governments.

Overall, the principle of Federalism creates an institution in which the US government exists in two autonomous levels with every entity capable of acting directly on behalf of the people, having been granted such authority by the constitution. A federal system of governments comes into play when two levels of government have powers over the same people as well as geographic area. For instance, both the state government of the state of New York and the Federal government of the US have authority over the people of the city of New York. One other essential feature of a federal government is the presence of a binding document that cannot be changed without the consent of the entire sub-governments. In this case, the 50 states of the US are bound by the constitution and it takes the consent of all of them for the laws to be changed.

Works Cited

Arizona v. United States. No. 567 U.S. 387 (2012). US Supreme Court . 2012.

Cooper v. Aaron. No. 358 U.S. 1 (1958). Supreme Court . 1958.

Foltin, Craig. "The role of federal regulation in state and local governments and the potential impact of new reforms: An assessment of the effectiveness of reporting, disclosure, and funding." Research in Accounting Regulation 29.1 (2017): 19-29.

Gonzales v. Raich. No. 545 U.S. 1 (2005). Supreme Court . 2005.

Heath v. Alabama. No. 474 U.S. 82 (1985). Supreme Court . 1985.

South Dakota v. Dole. No. 483 U.S. 203 (1987). Supreme Court . 1987.

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