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Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations


The ultimate source of authority in any political system.

State-centered federalism

The view that the Constitution allowed the national government only limited powers and that the states could overrule national laws if they determined that those laws were in violation of the Constitution.

Nation-centered federalism

The view that the authority of the national government goes beyond the responsibilities listed in Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution,; it is based on the necessary and proper clause and the principle of national supremacy.

Interstate Commerce

Trade across state lines; in contrast to intrastate (within state boundaries) trade and foreign trade.

Police Powers

The powers of state governments over the regulation of behavior within their borders. These police powers were used to justify state jurisdiction over economic matters.

Dual federalism

The perspective on federalism that emerged after the Civil War. It saw the national and state governments as equal but independent partners, with each responsible for distinct policy functions and each barred from interfering with the other's work.

Grant-in-aid programs

Federal appropriations that are given to states and localities to fund state policies and programs. The Morrill Act (1862) was the first instance of such a program.

Intergovernmental Relations

The workings of the federal system- the entire set of interactions among national, state, and local governments.

Cooperative federalism

A period of cooperation between state and national governments that began during the Great Depression. The national government began to take on new responsibilities, and sate and local officials accepted it as an ally, not an enemy.

Categorical, or conditional, grants-in-aid

Money given to the states and localities by Congress to be used for limited purposes under specific rules.

Formula grants

Grants given to the states and localities on the basis of population, the number of eligible persons, per capita income, or other factors.

Project grants

Grants awarded to states and localities for a specific program or plan of action.

Matching grants

Programs in which the national government requires recipient governments to provide a certain percentage of the funds needed to implement the programs.

Councils of governments

Local and regional bodies created in the early 1970s with federal funds help solve problems such as coordinating applications for federal grants.

Block Grants

Money given to the states by Congress that can be used in broad areas and is not limited to specific purposes, as categorical grants are. They were introduced in the mid-1960s as a means of giving states greater freedom.

General revenue sharing

A small but innovative grant-in-aid program, used in the 1970s and 1980s, that had no significant conditions attached to it. State and local governments received funds according to a formula based on population and related factors.

Unfunded mandates

Required actions imposed on lower-level governments by federal (and state) governments that are not accompanied by money to pay for the activities being mandated.


A term indicating the effort to give more functions and responsibilities to states and localities in the intergovernmental system.

Faith-based organizations (FBOs)

Church-related social service organizations.

Homeland Security

Domestic programs intended to prevent and, when necessary, deal with the consequences of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

Eminent Domain

The right of a sovereign government to take property for public purposes for just compensation even if the owner objects.

General Service Governments

Local governments, such as counties, municipalities, and townships, that provide a wide range of public services to those who live within their borders.

Special District governments

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

Intergovernmental lobby

The many individuals and groups that have a special interest in the policies and programs implemented through the growing intergovernmental relations systems. These lobbyists represent private,consumer, and business groups.

Public-sector interest groups

A lobby that represents the interest of elected officials and other major governmental actors involved in the intergovernmental relations system. An example is the National Governors' Association.

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