Essay about Mandates and Federalism

Over the last twenty-five years, federalism has transformed due to the increase in federal mandates on state and local governments. Federalism refers to a political system in which there are local units of government, as well as a national government, that can make final decisions with respect to at least some governmental activities, and whose existence is protected. When the Framers devised this political system their goal was to protect personal liberty and create a separation of powers. Over the years, federalism’s goal of decentralization evolved giving states more leeway.

Mandates, however, have in a way, increased federal power, imposing requirements and/or conditions for obtaining federal grants. These mandates provided federal restrictions on states’ economic actions and have served the former purpose of protecting personal liberties because they usually concern civil rights and environmental protection. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, for example, shows how federalism has changed and how mandates have augmented the regulation of state and local governments’ actions.

What Helped Change Federalism

Mandates created a new form of a “check” on state governmental activities. Mandates increased federal supremacy because they were mandatory. They take the form of regulatory statutes. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, for instance, required that businesses and state and local governments provide the disabled with equal access to services, transportation systems, employment, and buildings. In enacting this mandate, the federal government’s objective was to create equality and regulate what the states did with federal funds by imposing costs. State or local governments may not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities.

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All government facilities, services, and communications must be accessible consistent with the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Individuals may file complaints with federal agencies to be designated by the U.S. Attorney General or bring private lawsuits.

The ADA helped to change federalism because it had a great impact on state and local government budget priorities. Because the Americans with Disabilities Act did not specify what it’s definition of equal access was, the states had no idea as to what this mandate would cost. It provided no outline for how the mandate was to be administered, nor did it provide dependable estimates on how much it could possibly cost to employ. The mandates provided the disabled with equality, preventing discrimination, at a fairly high cost. Since the states were not certain about the definition of equal access, they had to facilitate services, building equipment on buses, ramps in buildings etc. There’s no doubt that mandates have an impact on state and local budget priorities.

Effects of the ADA

By trying to meet the terms of the ADA, states had to shift their attention from other projects, which were perhaps more important (maybe because of the low number of disabled in the area). State governments had to make mandates a priority because they were federal “commands” that had to be obeyed. Thus, mandates not only increased involvement between the states and the federal government (federal-state relations), but they also nationalized the government more. Mandates allowed the states to spend with respect to important matters. States obey the mandates and by doing so they create legislation that benefits the people. By having mandates, the federal government prevents the states from misspending federal money.

The potential consequences of removing the Americans with Disabilities Act would have great effects on federalism. If the mandate were removed, the federal government wouldn’t have as much power to control how federal money was spent. States wouldn’t be pressured into passing legislation that benefit a certain group. In addition, those who benefited from the mandate, the disabled, would not be treated equally since there would no longer be handicap access in public places. The removal of mandates affects the federal-state relations in that it decentralizes the government more and diminishes whatever authority the federal government has over the state government.

Federalism has in fact changed over the past twenty-five years. It has become more complex, creating things like mandates, which control state actions. Mandates changed federalism, perhaps for the better. Because of the federal demands, states and federal government had to work together in order to protect certain rights and meet the needs of the people. Public policies became more nationalized as a result of mandates. They had an impact on the devolution revolution, which for some time had shifted responsibilities to the states , giving them more power and involvement in policies. However, with mandates, the power was shifted back the federal government, the supreme.


Wilson American Government

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Essay about Mandates and Federalism. (2016, Jul 19). Retrieved from

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