Federal Limitations on State and Local Government Policy
This paper will discuss the most important limitations placed on state and local government policies by the federal government and federal judiciary. The first part of the paper will discuss the general relationship between state and federal government in the United States. The second part of the paper will examine how state jurisdiction is limited with respect to welfare. The third part of the paper will show how state and local governments are restricted with regard to education. The fourth part of the paper will examine how states are restricted in the area of drugs. The fifth part of the paper will discuss the limitations placed upon states with respect to environmental regulation. The last part of the paper will briefly look at the limitations in the area of abortion.
The system of government in the United States is a federalist one; that is, the federal and state governments coexist. The U.S. Constitution grants the federal government only limited powers, which are enumerated within the text of the Constitution. In contrast, state governments hold the general "police power" to protect the safety and general welfare of state residents. This power is the inherent one which is generally associated with governments. Therefore, an action by a state government is valid under federal law unless it violates a specific provision of the U.S. Constitution. An action by the federal government, on the other hand, must fall within one of the specifically enumerated powers listed in the Constitution; there is no federal power to act for the "general welfare" of the residents of the United States (Nowak, Rotunda, & Young, 1986, p. 112).
In the area of welfare benefits, state action is limited only by Constitutional guarantees of certain rights. Prior to 1970, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to find that there were liberty or property interests in benefits which were ...