23 Glossary

The Division of Powers

bill of attainder a legislative action declaring someone guilty without a trial; prohibited under the Constitution

concurrent powers shared state and federal powers that range from taxing, borrowing, and making and enforcing laws to establishing court systems

devolution a process in which powers from the central government in a unitary system are delegated to subnational units

elastic clause the last clause of Article I, Section 8, which enables the national government “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying” out all its constitutional responsibilities

ex post facto law a law that criminalizes an act retroactively; prohibited under the Constitution

federalism an institutional arrangement that creates two relatively autonomous levels of government, each possessing the capacity to act directly on the people with authority granted by the national constitution

full faith and credit clause found in Article IV, Section 1, of the Constitution, this clause requires states to accept court decisions, public acts, and contracts of other states; also referred to as the comity provision

privileges and immunities clause found in Article IV, Section 2, of the Constitution, this clause prohibits states from discriminating against out-of-staters by denying such guarantees as access to courts, legal protection, and property and travel rights

unitary system a centralized system of government in which the subnational government is dependent on the central government, where substantial authority is concentrated

writ of habeas corpus a petition that enables someone in custody to petition a judge to determine whether that person’s detention is legal

The Evolution of American Federalism

cooperative federalism a style of federalism in which both levels of government coordinate their actions to solve national problems, leading to the blending of layers as in a marble cake

dual federalism a style of federalism in which the states and national government exercise exclusive authority in distinctly delineated spheres of jurisdiction, creating a layer-cake view of federalism

general revenue sharing a type of federal grant that places minimal restrictions on how state and local governments spend the money

new federalism a style of federalism premised on the idea that the decentralization of policies enhances administrative efficiency, reduces overall public spending, and improves outcomes

nullification a doctrine promoted by John Calhoun of South Carolina in the 1830s, asserting that if a state deems a federal law unconstitutional, it can nullify it within its borders

Intergovernmental Relationships

block grant a type of grant that comes with less stringent federal administrative conditions and provide recipients more latitude over how to spend grant funds

categorical grant a federal transfer formulated to limit recipients’ discretion in the use of funds and subject them to strict administrative criteria

creeping categorization a process in which the national government attaches new administrative requirements to block grants or supplants them with new categorical grants

unfunded mandates federal laws and regulations that impose obligations on state and local governments without fully compensating them for the costs of implementation

Competitive Federalism Today

immigration federalism the gradual movement of states into the immigration policy domain traditionally handled by the federal government

venue shopping a strategy in which interest groups select the level and branch of government they calculate will be most receptive to their policy goals

Advantages and Disadvantages of Federalism

race-to-the-bottom a dynamic in which states compete to attract business by lowering taxes and regulations, often to workers’ detriment


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