The Powers Granted by the Constitution
What does the Constitution have to say about the powers granted to the states. The last Amendment added to the Bill of Rights states that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”. Article 1 section 10 has a short list of powers which the states do not have.
Today there is a debate over whether the states have the ability to pass legislation declaring that citizens must show a specific type of identification in order to vote. The Constitution gives the right for any citizen to vote in Amendments 15,19, 24 and 26. These Amendments guarantee every citizen of the United States the right to vote. Within these amendments the states nor do the federal government have the ability to deny or alter any person’s ability to vote.
The Supreme Court
The highest court of the land has tried it’s fair share of cases on the issue of limitations of federal powers that have been granted to the states, while not being in direct contrast with the amendments which state the what powers are not to be given to the states or the powers shared between the states and the federal government. One of these cases, probably the most famous is Brown vs. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas. This case stated that there is to be desegregation in the local school districts, clearly a power given to the states.
The reason that this held true is because this act was illegal according to the 14th Amendment. While the federal government did not have the power to intrude, due to the supremacy of the United States Constitution Article 6 Clause 2, “Clause 2: This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding”. The states did not have the right to segregate the population.
The health care law was upheld due to the Commerce Clause, Article 1 Section 8 Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution.
Erie Railroad CO. Vs. Tompkins which stated that state courts rulings will be recognized by the federal courts. This is one of the cases in which state powers were expanded. Albeit, there is a recognition that federal powers are clearly the more dominant.
So what powers are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution
The states have the ability to ratify Amendments to the Constitution; manage public health and safety and oversee trade within the state (this also includes any business which operates within it’s boarders). The states also have powers that are not prohibited in the Constitution and do not violate the rights of it’s citizens according to the Constitution. For example; a state has the ability to govern traffic laws but it does not have the ability to print it’s own money. This is because there is a universal currency that is produce by the federal government. Also states do not have the ability to control interstate trade but they do have the ability to control intrastate trade.
There are also shared powers. These powers make and enforce laws, borrow money and taxation. These shared powers are necessary so that each government can function while protecting the citizens within it’s boundaries.
Saying what exactly constitutes states powers is being either expanded or contracted due to Supreme Court Cases. Defining what a states powers are is very difficult without explaining the powers of the federal government. This is due to the fact that each state is a sovereign state within a larger sovereign body, The United States of America.