UNIT 1: The Constitutional Foundations of the United States: Constitutional Underpinnings: Federalism

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the process of declining from a higher to a lower level of effective power or vitality or essential quality

Block Grants

Federal grants given more or less automatically to states or communities to support broad programs in areas such as community development and social services


51 COURT SYSTEMS ; federal courts and the courts of the 50 states; impacts the role of precedent in law
Each state is free to determine for itself what behavior is forbidden and each is free to establish reasonable punishment for defined crimes


government free from external control

Unitary System

a government that gives all key powers to the national or central government

Confederation System

A political system in which states or regional governments retain ultimate authority except for those powers that they expressly delegate to a central government.

Federal System

a government that divides the powers of government between the national government and state or provincial governments

Federal System

a government that divides the powers of government between the national government and state or provincial governments

Federal regime

local units of government have a specially protected existence and can make some final decisions over some governmental activities

"Necessary and proper" clause

Constitutional clause that gives congress the power to make all laws "necessary and proper" for executing its powers


the states'-rights doctrine that a state can refuse to recognize or to enforce a federal law passed by the United States Congress

Dual Federalism

A system of government in which both the states and the national government remain supreme within their own spheres, each responsible for some policies.


people living in a large densely populated municipality

Municipal corporation or Municipality

legal term for a city; chartered by the state to exercise certain powers and provide certain services

Special-act charter

A charter that denies the powers of a certain named city and lists what the city can and cannot do.

General-Act Charter

A charter that applies to a number of cities that fall within a certain classification, usually based on city population.

Dillion's rule

legal doctrine that local governments are mere creatures of the state

Home-rule charter

reverses Dillon's Rule and allows city governments to do anything that is not prohibited by the charter or state law.


Laws enacted by local government bodies such as cities and municipalities, counties, school districts, and water districts.


A territorial unit between a city/town and the state itself.

Special- district governments

Local governments that deal with one of two distinctive government functions, such as education, fire protection, public transportation, or sewage treatment.

School Districts

the government unit that administers elementary and secondary school programs

Police Powers

powers of the states to protect the public health, safety, morals, and welfare of the public


serving to set in motion


a legislative act is referred for final approval to a popular vote by the electorate


cause to be returned


money given by the national government to the states

Categorical grants

Federal grants to states or local governments that are for specific programs or projects.

Revenue Sharing

distribution of part of the federal tax income to states and municipalities

Conditions of aid

Terms set by the national government that states must meet if they are to receive certain federal funds.


terms set by the national government that states must meet whether or not they accept federal grants

Second-order devolution

A flow of power and responsibility from state to local governments

Third-order devolution

The increased role of nonprofit organizations and private groups in policy implementation

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