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Limits on Congress' Regulation of the States
Generally Applicable laws as Applied to the States
The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States provides that "[t]he 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."
National League of Cities v. Usery (pg. 650) - OVERRULED BY Garcia
In National League of Cities v. Usery, the Court struck down a federal statute that extended the minimum wage and maximum hour regulations to almost all state and municipal employees.
The Court held that "insofar as the challenged amendments operate to directly displace the States' freedom to structure integral operations in areas of traditional governmental functions, they are not within the authority granted Congress by Art. I, § 8, cl. 3." National League of Cities v. Usery (pg. 652) (emphasis added)
Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority (pg. 653)
In Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Court overruled National League of Cities, and upheld the federal minimum wage laws.
The Court stated that "[w]e . . . now reject, as unsound in principle and unworkable in practice, a rule of state immunity from federal regulation that turns on a judicial appraisal of whether a particular governmental function is 'integral' or 'traditional.'" Garcia (pg. 654)
In setting the new rule, the Court stated that it was "convinced that the fundamental limitation that the constitutional scheme imposes on the Commerce Clause to protect 'States as States' is one of process rather than one of result." Garcia (pg. 654)
Therefore, the Court stated the rule that "the principal and basic limit on the federal commerce power is that inherent in all congressional action - the built-in restraints that our system might impose on federal action affecting the States under the Commerce Clause." Garcia (pg. 655)
Garcia stands for the proposition that States must find their protection from congressional regulation through the political process, not through judicially defined spheres of unregulatable state activity; therefore, the tenth amendment does not provide any protection in the courts for states with respect to generally applicable laws as applied to the states.
In South Carolina v. Baker, the Court applied the Garcia rule to uphold the constitutionality of Section 310(b)(1) of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, which eliminated the exemption from federal income tax of interest earned on nonregistered bonds issued by states and local municipalities. (pg. 664)
The Court found the tenth amendment claim foreclosed by Garcia, which the Court described as holding that the limits of Congress's authority to regulate state activities "are structural - not substantive" (i.e., that States must find their protection from congressional regulation through the national political process, not through judicially defined spheres of unregulatable state activity.
"Where . . . the national political process did not operate in a defective manner, the Tenth Amendment is not implicated." South Carolina v. Baker (pg. 664)
Gregory v. Ashcroft (pg. 665)
This case simply stands for the proposition that where Congress decides to legislate in areas traditionally regulated by the States, it must do so clearly and unequivocally.
"If Congress intends to alter the 'usual constitutional balance between the States and the Federal Government,' it must make its intention to do so 'unmistakably clear in the language of the statute.'" Gregory v. Ashcroft (pg. 667)
"[I]nasmuch as this Court in Garcia has left primarily to the political process the protection of the States against intrusive exercises of Congress' Commerce Clause powers, we must be absolutely certain that Congress intended such an exercise." Gregory v. Ashcroft (pg. 668)
In Gregory, the Court held that the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) did not preempt the Missouri Constitutional provision requiring judges to retire at the age of seventy years old because the ADEA was ambiguous and it was unclear whether state judges fell within one of the exceptions to the Act. Therefore, since Congress did not make it "unmistakably clear" that it intended to regulate the conduct at issue, the Court did not strike down the State constitutional provision.
New York v. United States (pg. 674)
"The Federal Government may not compel the States to enact or administer a federal regulatory program." New York v. United States (pp. 684-85)
"Congress may not simply 'commandeer the legislative processes of the States by directly compelling them to enact and enforce a federal regulatory program.'" New York v. United States (quoting Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining & Reclamation Assn., Inc.) (pg. 677)
"'[T]his Court never has sanctioned explicitly a federal command to the States to promulgate and enforce laws and regulations.'" New York v. United States (quoting FERC v. Mississippi) (pg. 677)
"[T]he Constitution has never been understood to confer upon Congress the ability to require the States to govern according to Congress' instruction." New York v. United States (pg....
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