AP Gov. Key Terms – Federalism

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the system of government in which a constitution divides power betweem a central government and a regional government


supreme and independent political authority

expressed powers

the notion that the constitution grants to the federal government only those powers specifically named in its text

implied powers

powers derived from the necessary and proper clause (Article I, Section 8) of the Constitution. Such powers are not specifically expressed but are implied through the expansive interpretation of delegated powers

reserved powers

powers, derived from the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution, that are not specifically delegated to the national government or denied to the states

concurrent powers

the authority possessed by both state and national governments, such as the power to levy taxes and borrow money

police power

the power reserved to the government to regulate the health, safety and morals of its citizens

necessary and proper clause

Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, which enumerates the powers of Congress and provides Congress with the authority to make all laws "necessary and proper" to carry them out; also referred to as the elastic clause

full faith and credit clause

the provision of Article IV, Section 1, of the Constitution requiring that the states normally honor the public acts and judicial decisions that take place in another state

privileges and immunities

the provision from Article IV, Section 2, of the Constitution stating that a state cannot discriminate against someone from another state or give its own residents special privileges

home rule

the power delegated by the state to a local unit of government to manage its own affairs

dual federalism

the system of government that prevailed in the United States from 1789-1937, in which most fundamental governmental powers were shared between the federal and state governments

cooperative federalism

a type of federalism existing since the New Deal era, in which grants-in-aid have been used strategically to encourage states and localities (without commanding them) to pursue nationally defined goals. Also known as intergovernmental cooperation.


a general term for funds given by congress to state and local governments (important form of federal influence)

categorical grants-in-aid

funds given by Congress to states and localities that are earmarked by law for specific categories such as education or crime prevention

project grants

grant programs in which state and local governments submit proposals to federal agencies and for which funding is provided on a competative basis

formula grants

grants-in-aid in which a formula is used to determine the amount of federal funds a state or local government will receive

block grants

federal funds given to state governments to pay for goods, services, or programs, with relatively few restrictions on how the funds may be spent

unfunded mandates

national standards or programs imposed on state and local governments by the federal government without accompanying funding or reimbursement


the policy of removing a program from one level of government by deregulating it or passing it down to a lower level, such as fromt the national government to the state and local governments

commerce clause

Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, which delegates to Congress the power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several states and with Indian Tribes." This clause was interpreted by the Supreme Court to favor national power over the economy

states’ rights

the principle that states should oppose increases in the authority of the national government. This view was most popular before the Civil War.

State Sovereign Immunity

a legal doctrine holding that states cannot be sued for violating an act of Congress

Checks and Balances

the mechanism through which each branch of government is able to participate in and influence the activities of the other branches

legislative supremacy

the preeminent position assigned to Congress by the Constitution

divided government

the condition in American government in which the presidency is controlled by one party while the opposing party controls one or both houses of Congress

executive privilege

the claim that confidential communications between the president and the president’s close advisers should not be revealed without the consent of the president

writ of habeas corpus

a court oder demanding that an individual in custody be brought into court and shown the cause for detention. Habeas Corpus is guarenteed by the Constitution and can be suspended only in cases of rebellion or invasion

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