Our [National] Federalism
48 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2014
Date Written: April 20, 2014
"National Federalism" best describes the modern allocation of state and federal power, but it is a federalism without doctrine. Federalism today comes primarily from Congress — through its decisions to give states prominent roles in federal schemes and so to ensure the states’ continuing relevance in the statutory era. As a result, many of the most significant state sovereign acts now occur through state implementation of federal statutory law, but we have no law to effectuate this account of state authority. This is National Federalism: nationalism and federalism, simultaneous and in tension — and generated entirely by federal statutes. Unlike traditional federalism, it is neither a constant presence nor an entitlement: rather, it is a feature of federal statutory design. But nor does it have the usual trappings of nationalism, because it incorporates experimentation, variety and state historical expertise — the classic "federalism" values — into national law. State sovereignty remains, even if law does not yet recognize it as such. States pass state legislation, appoint new state officials and hear state-law cases in state courts, all as part of their work to implement federal statutory law, but in many ways autonomous from it. Yet, instead of having Chevron-like doctrines that give implementing states more policymaking discretion; or jurisdictional rules that keep more of these cases in state courts; or choice-of-law regimes requiring that state standards of review and state rules of administrative procedure should apply to the state laws enacted by states legislatures that shape the local implementation of federal law in ways unique to each state — instead of all of that, we have a doctrinal muddle and a Court that does not even see these questions as federalism questions in the first place. This essay develops the account of Congress as our primary source of federalism, and re-situates nationalism within that account. It then assembles a list of fifteen unresolved doctrinal questions that reveal the complexity and importance of federalism’s modern statutory domain.
Keywords: federalism, legislation, statutory interpretation, agencies, administrative law, constitutional law, separation of powers, federal courts, jurisdiction, chevron
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