Magazine article State Legislatures

Constitutional Federalism

Magazine article State Legislatures

Constitutional Federalism

Article excerpt

NCSL won an important victory in the Printz case when the Supreme Court struck down the background check provisions of the Brady Law as a violation of states' rights under the 10th Amendment. But, as noted previously, the federal government retains considerable power to coerce the states by attaching conditions or "strings" to federal grants.

Grant conditions are a particular problem for states when they are attached to federal programs years after the first federal grant is accepted. States become dependent on federal funds, and knowing that it is politically impossible for the state to turn down federal money, Congress exploits the situation by basing the future receipt of federal funds on compliance with federal goals in unrelated policy areas. For example, highway funding bills in Congress have become a favorite "Christmas tree" on which to hang unrelated grant conditions that effectively coerce states into adhering to federal policy.

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in South Dakota vs. Dole that was unfavorable to the states. The case resulted from South Dakota's challenge to a federal requirement that states raise their drinking age to 21 if they wanted to receive all their highway money. The Court upheld the constitutionality of this grant condition. This may have been, in part, because this issue is a difficult one for the court to address. What clear and understandable test could the Court apply that would distinguish legitimate grant conditions from illegitimate ones?

Logic would dictate that Congress should be free to make conditions for grants to states in a way that ensures that the money is properly spent. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.