By a series of laws the federal government can force the states to
implement actions they had not taken. The best example provided is
from the area of civil rights. The Voting Rights Act of 1965
challenged the literacy tests and poll tax in the South, thus interfering
with the state’s constitutional powers. Congress can also issue mandates
requiring the states to adhere to certain requirements, such as
the environmental laws regarding air and water pollution control,
as well as the disposal of wastes.
Further, by a condition of aid, Congress
may issue the threat of cutting off funds unless a certain policy
was put into practice by the states.
2.2c The Role of funding policies
Finance is probably the most important instrument of control used by the federal government on the states. Congress has often used its financial powers in order to extend national control. During the 19th century, Congress made grants of lands to the states. These grants were meant to be used as sources of funds for the purpose of education. One significant Act relevant to this was the Morill Act of 1862, which granted large tracts of land for financing "such branches of learning as related to agriculture and the mechanic arts." In later years, supplements were made to the Morill Act, providing that federal funds should be withheld from any institution failing to maintain the designated stands.
Funds known as categorical grants could be set-aside for a specific purpose. Under this type, a project grant could be given to individuals based on competitive applications. The National Institutes of Health or the National Endowment for the Humanities gives grants of this kind. However formula grants are awarded to states and municipalities, meeting the requirements described in the legislation.
For general purposes like mental health, community services or job training, a block grant is granted to state and local governments.
In general, federal aid to the states falls into three stages. There are outright grants with no strings attached. These were awarded between 1785 and 1862. Thus the grant of one section of land, in each township, for the benefit of their schools was practiced. However some states sold of these lands and the Congress was criticized for its negligence when the schools lost their heritage.
Between 1862 to 1911, conditional grants were issued. A definite form was given to the policy of financial grants to the states. This resulted in land-grant institutions, and later annual sums were granted for specific purposes. These conditional grants worked well to accomplished much.
Matching of funds began with the Weeks Act of 1911,
introducing the method by which federal grants had to be matched
by state funds, usually on a fifty-fifty basis. After 1911, the
grants-in-aid are given in the form of congressional appropriations
for forestry and conservation projects, social security, agricultural
extension, public works, unemployment relief and vocational education.
2.1 Concepts of Federalism
Defining Federal-State Relations
2.3 Recent Trends in Federalism