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Federalism and States Rights

Chief Justice Marshall, McCulloch v. Maryland, 7 U.S. 316 (1819)

Centre for American Legal Studies State Rights Image 350x263 - Capitol Building The United States Constitution was an experiment for a new form of government, a system where powers were no longer centralized but distributed between the central government and the states. The framers believed that the separation of powers would have contributed to the preservation of individual liberty.

Has the federal experiment been successful? Scholars define contemporary federalism as dysfunctional and the tension between the central government and states is increasingly evident in many ambits: health care, gun laws, abortion, immigration, education, drug control.

The phenomenon of state rights’ revival raises key questions of constitutionalism.

current research project investigates the legislation and relative constitutional arguments used by certain state legislatures between 2010-2016 to challenge the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Data have been collected with the help of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver, Colorado during a research trip funded by the American Politics Group of the Political Studies Association.

The project enquires to what extent states’ measures represent safeguards of federalism or the germs of a much deeper controversy over the essence of American constitutional order. In so doing, it contributes to an understanding of the contemporary strategies used by the states to safeguard their interests and is directly relevant to understand the constitutional issues related to dysfunctional federalism.