The purpose of this series of articles is to describe and interpret the 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights, which were adopted in 1789 and which distinguish the United States Constitution from those of other countries. Both sides of the arguments for or against a particular amendment will be given, leaving the reader free to make their own interpretation.
The last amendment in the original Bill of Rights came about as a result of the controversy existing between the drafters of the Constitution as to whether there should be a strong federal government or more power reserved to individual states.
This controversy continues today.
As far back as 1907, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the purpose of the 10th Amendment was to put beyond all dispute the fact that all powers not granted by the Constitution to the federal government are reserved to states.
Any time the federal government asserts power over areas of private endeavors, there is often a cry that it has exceeded its authority; but usually, the courts hold that even when Congress preempts express contrary state law determinations, it is limited only by the requirement that this means chosen by Congress must be reasonably adopted to the end permitted by the Constitution.
Prior legislation that opponents have unsuccessfully tried to declare invalid under the 10th Amendment include the National Labor Relations Act (1936), Fair Labor Standards Act (1941), Age Discrimination in Employment Act (1985), Housing Act of 1949 (1957), Swine Flu Act (1977) and Omnibus Crime Control Act (1989).
Locally, the sale by the Tennessee Valley Authority of electrical power to various municipalities within the area of dam construction under the Tennessee Valley Authority Act did not violate states’ rights under the 10th Amendment, where state rights authorized purchase of electric power by municipalities and no state asserted its rights were violated (1939).
One area where the power of the federal government has been limited is that of “police power.” All relating merely to municipal legislations on internal police were not surrendered by the states; and, in relation to these, the power of a state is unqualified and exclusive. Police power reserved to the state by the 10th Amendment is, however, subject to the due process provisions of the 14th Amendment.
It is, nevertheless, true that when the United States exerts any of the powers conferred upon it by the federal constitution, no valid objection can be based upon the fact that such exercise may be attended by the same incidents that attend the exercise by the state of its police power or that it may lend to accomplish a similar purpose.
The controversy is expected to continue in the future.
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