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Federalism


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block grant
Grant of money from the federal government to states for programs in certain general areas rather than for specific kinds of programs.
categorical grant
A federal grant for a specific purpose defined by federal law: to build an airport, for example, or to make welfare payments to low-income mothers. Such grants usually require that the state or locality put up money to “match” some part of the federal grant, though the amount of matching funds can be quite small.
conditions of aid
Federal rules attached to the grants that states receive. States must agree to abide by these rules to receive the grants.
confederation
A political system in which states or regional governments retain ultimate authority except for those powers that they expressly delegate to a central government. The United States was a confederation from 1776 to 1787 under the Articles of Confederation.
dual federalism
A constitutional theory that the national government and the state governments each have defined areas of authority, especially over commerce.
Federalism
A political system in which ultimate authority is shared between a central government and state or regional governments.
grants-in-aid
Federal funds provided to states and localities. Grants-in-aid are typically provided for airports, highways, education, and major welfare services.
mandates
Rules imposed by the federal government on the states as requirements that the states pay the costs of certain nationally defined programs.
necessary-and-proper clause or elastic clause
The final paragraph of Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution, which authorizes Congress to pass all laws “necessary and proper” to carry out the enumerated powers. Sometimes called the “elastic clause” because of the flexibility that it provides to Congress.
nullification
A theory first advanced by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson that the states had the right to “nullify” (that is, declare null and void) a federal law that, in the states’ opinion, violated the Constitution. The theory was revived by John C. Calhoun of South Carolina in opposition to federal efforts to restrict slavery. The North’s victory in the Civil War determined once and for all that the federal union is indissoluble and that states cannot declare acts of Congress unconstitutional, a view later confirmed by the Supreme Court.
sovereignty
Supreme or ultimate political authority. A sovereign government is legally and politically independent of any other government or subunit of government.