General Question

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

What laws are on a state level in the the USA and what is done on a national level?

Asked by Questionsaboutstuff (265points) June 12th, 2014

Who decides if a state can have their own health system or own minimum wages.

To what extent do states have power in law making? Is there something I can read or watch to understand this more?

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11 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Here’s an easy chart to help you understand.

JLeslie's avatar

Typically a state needs to meet the required federal minimum, and then the state can add on to it. For instance, with minimum wage, there is a federal minimum. Some states have a policy of following the federal minimum. Some states have a high minimum wage than the federal minimum.

Health care similarly would have to meat federal minimums. Some states have been expirements. Giving states some autonomy let’s us see how new ideas might work, and if they work well we can spread it across other states. Maryland for instance has had laws in place for health care that involve ceiling limits on medical fees. These laws have been in place for several years and it is still being evaluated.

Some laws it has been decided that certain things will be governed at the state level. For instance, marriage is done at the state level, and the reason someone married in Maryland is also considered married in California, is because the states have reciprocity agreements that they accept civil marriages as binding from all 50 states plus DC (and probably Puerto Rico and Guam, etc, but I don’t know all the details f the law). This is why gay marriage is being decided at the state level.

Laws like abortion, the federal government says it is legal. Some states are trying to chip away at it. The states put laws into place to make it harder to get an abortion. Making girls wait a week to get one. Forcing places that give abortions to notify the parents of a minor girl. It is up to someone to take a law like that up to the supreme court if they feel it is against the constitution and if the supreme court decides it is, then it could be made impossible for a state to require these sorts of things. Many states make laws that later are challenged in the supreme court and that might clarify the federal law and requirements all states follow on the subject. If the local laws are never challenged then they might go on for a very long time even though it is unconstitutional.

In our history when desegregation was finally done at the federal level the southern states were not happy about it. There is the famous case in Arkansas of the Little Rock Nine, where Nine black school children were being blocked from entering the white school where they now were supposed to attend. The Governor of the state supported segregation, he ordered the Arkansas National guard to block the kids from entering the school. US President Eisenhower ordered troops down into Arkansas to help those kids have safe passage into the school. This is a huge deal. I had grown up thinking the federal government is for everyone and local laws don’t contradict federal laws, but I was being very naive. Federal and local laws can be at great odds. The south especially often sees the federal government as an almost enemy, rather than being a layer of government. The federal government going into a state like what happened during the Little Rock Nine is big, because a governor is supposed to ask for federal help, the federal government can’t just go in. An example is what happened during hurrican Katrina. The governor needed to ask for help, but she didn’t initially so President Bush waited, he followed the law. He should have broken the law, even he admits that in retrospect.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Far, FAR too much is done on the federal level.

The Fed’s reach should only include interstate matters.

Defense, interstate highway system, etc.

Jaxk's avatar

The place to start is the constitution. The 10th amendment states:“The 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.” The game from the beginning has been to find something in the constitution that grants power to the federal government that can be construed to apply to the issue at hand. The most common clause used is the interstate commerce clause. Since almost anything is or can be sold or shipped interstate, so the federal government claims jurisdiction. It’s quite a stretch but SCOTUS has allowed that argument most of the time.

If you take an issue like abortion, there is nothing in the constitution that grants power over it to the federal government. Hell there’s nothing in the constitution about abortion at all. SCOTUS has ruled that abortion is a privacy matter and as such is the sole discretion of the woman involved. Which is actually funny since in the same ruling they allow limitations in the second and third trimester. Apparently it’s not completely private. Even funnier when you look at the NSA and see that almost nothing is private anymore.

Questionsaboutstuff's avatar

Nice little simple site, I’ll give it a read over and see if I have anymore questions

GloPro's avatar

Even the laws governed by the state are subject to heavy influence to fall in line. For example, states do have the choice to leave the legal drinking age at 18. If they set it at 21, however, they receive an an additional 10% funding for roads.

josie's avatar

See above.
Read The Articles, then read the Tenth Ammendment. At least that is how it was designed.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jaxk GA.

I don’t want to get into an abortion debate, I am not here to argue abortionnright or wrong, but I wanted to clarify a couple of things. The reason for the limitations has to do with the fetus being able to survive on it’s on, its viability. Third trimester abortions are not done in the US. That is the 7th, 8th, and 9th month. The supreme court decided in a case that after 24 weeks there is a presumption of viability. I agree there is a bit of inconsistency in the law regarding the right of the woman over her body, but I see inconsistency in the stance that abortion should be against the law except in the case of rape.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

A pro-Constitution reply on Fluther with upvotes!

GA @Jaxk

Jaxk's avatar


This may be one of the areas in which we agree. I don’t like abortion but I don’t like the alternative either. I just find the right to privacy a strange way to get to that end. You have a right to privacy in the first trimester but not in the third? The truth is they painted themselves into a corner and had rule on when life begins without ruling on when life begins.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

A lawyer successfully defended an alleged underaged drinker by claiming that the legal age was effectively 20 years and 3 months.

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