Free «Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations» Essay Sample


The United States is a federal system. The national government and the states have the separate spheres of the sovereign powers. However, they overlap each other sometimes. In such cases, the authority of the federal government limits the powers of the states, and the powers of the states constrain the authority of the federal government at the same time. Nevertheless, the more curious and complicated interactions are the interstate relations or “horizontal federalism” and the ways the federal government and the states are trying to coordinate these relations through the different tools. Among them, there are interstate commerce, interstate cooperation, equal protection, interstate compacts and uniform legal codes. This paper is aimed at discussing the relations and tools of their regulation applied by the main participants, which are the states, and the federal government that also takes part in it, using the Constitution, its amendments and clauses to coordinate and influence the interstate relationship.

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Interstate Relations

“Horizontal Federalism” or interstate relations is a very important aspect of the American federalism. It means that states have to coordinate their activities not only with the federal government but also with one another. The range of problems that have to be solved in a satisfactory manner is huge. Among them there are the following: establishing uniform drivers’ licensing, coordinating of the road construction, drinking-age regulation, joint law enforcement activities, type of equipment and vehicles that can be operated on the states’ roads, insect control programs, and many other matters. Moreover, there are more complex concerns in the interstate relations. They include one state’s discrimination against the residents of the other state, border disputes, higher education, public housing, welfare benefits, granting of the permissions in the commercial exploitation of the states’ natural resources. Furthermore, according to Rosenbloom, Kravchuk, and Clerkin (2014), more complicated concerns in the interstate relations may carry the potential for disarray and chaos.

Regulation Tools

Interstate Cooperation

The Constitution of the United States actively promotes the interstate cooperation, namely its 4th Article in the 1st Section that is known as the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). Its central idea is that each state has to recognize Records, Acts, and judicial Proceedings of every other state. Moreover, the person who was charged in any state with Felony, Treason or other Crime and fled from justice to another state should be delivered back to the state that charged him/her on demand of the executive authority of the state (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). So, under the “Full Faith and Credit Clause,” every state despite possible differences in policies is bound to accept the legal acts of the other state. For example, wills, divorce decrees or other civil instruments, which may diverge considerably, must be recognized.

However, the cooperation between states is not always perfect. For instance, if a resident of one state moves to another one as a migrant to gain a divorce and after it returns to the native state, some jurisdiction issues may appear. Granted in one state and recognized in another one, divorce may cause some problems with property settlements and child custody that may become the subject to the jurisdiction of the state that recognized the divorce. Talking about the extradition of the criminal suspects, it usually passes smoothly. However, sometimes there is a situation when crime in one state may be considered as the act of the heroism in another. It is obvious that in such a case, the state governor is unwilling or reluctant to return the individual. In general, in the most instances, the full faith and credit clause contribute to the cooperation between states, but there are always enough exceptions called “conflict of laws.”

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Interstate Commerce

The Constitution of the United States encourages the commerce among the states. In addition to the federal government’s authority to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the states, and with Indian tribes, it possesses the powers that deeply cut into the state sovereignty. Among them there are the following: levy tariffs, establishing of the legal-tender money, grant copyrights and patents, enact the maritime law, and set standard measures and weights (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). Moreover, the wide range of the state’s actions has to comply with the federal law, namely with banking regulations, collective bargaining matters, use of roads, occupational health, transportation of the products across state lines, safety and relationship with foreign nations and their political subdivisions (Rosenbloom et al., 2014).

Interstate Compacts

“Agreement or Compact with another State” is one more option that was allowed by the Constitution of the United States for cooperating with the other states. Interstate compacts are a very important tool. Due to them, two or more states may have a possibility to fight against the common problems, such as health issues, pollution, deal with transportation and traffic congestion, or protect the wildlife or natural resources. These compacts may also include the national government as a participant. Also, states may coordinate a lot of their policies without making the formal agreement. The possibilities of the compacts between the states are almost endless. However, the different cultural and economic interests dictate opposite policies.

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Equal Protection

Equal protection clause is also an important tool in interstate relations. It disables discrimination against new residents and nonresidents in some context. Nevertheless, in some spheres, including higher education and public employment, a state may treat its residents, newcomers, and nonresidents in a different way.

The “Full Faith and Credit Clause” cannot make a state recognize the occupational licenses that were granted by the other one. That is why it may be required that the new residents and nonresidents pass the professional tests. The federal judiciary may decide if the state’s policies make a discriminatory impact. Moreover, the “privileges and immunities” clauses in the 4th Article of the Fourteenth Amendment provides the constitutional validity of the state’s residency requirements (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). According to it, every citizen has the same immunities and privileges, and no state can limit these ones. Thus, some of the state’s policies that interfere with some freedoms may be considered as the unconstitutional ones. However, the clauses protect nonresidents that seeking medical services, employment or access to commercial activities.

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Adoption of the uniform laws is the other tool in coordinating the relations between states. Talking about the most successful attempt, it could not be but mentioned the Uniform Commercial Code that was subscribed by all the states except Louisiana (Rosenbloom et al., 2014). It covered a number of commercial transactions. The other attempts at uniformity have not achieved such success.


The interstate relations in the American federal system are often complicated. They may be competitive, offensive or friendly depending on the situation or problem that appeared. To coordinate the interstate relations, the federal government and the states possess the different tools. Among them, there are interstate commerce, interstate compacts, interstate cooperation, equal protection, and uniform legal codes. All of these are promoted and supported by the Constitution, its amendments, and clauses. Due to them, the states may solve different common problems, and the federal government may coordinate the interstate relations.

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