5 Examples of Cooperative Federalism (Including Pros & Cons)

Examples of Cooperative Federalism

Since the creation of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, state and federal governments have taken on many different roles and forms. When sovereignty is shared by multiple levels of government, creating a balance of powers, it is known as federalism. Once the Constitution officially established a federal government system, different phases in federalism began shifting over time.

Cooperative federalism is defined as the state and federal government working together and sharing powers on certain matters. Some governmental functions tend to overlap and when cooperative federalism is in place, state and federal governments collaborate on these matters together. Examples of cooperative federalism can include various programs, laws, and regulations that states and the national government work together to implement.

Examples of laws and programs that operate under cooperative federalism include:

  • Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD)
  • New Deal
  • Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR)
  • Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case
  • National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA)

What Is Cooperative Federalism?

What Is Cooperative Federalism?

Cooperative federalism first appeared at the beginning of the 20th century. Between 1901 and 1960, state and federal governments began to work more closely together to form a cooperative relationship. Before this era, dual federalism had been in place since the late 1700s. Dual federalism is similar to cooperative federalism, but the biggest difference is state and federal governments in a dual federalism system have separate areas of authority.

Before cooperative federalism was in place, state and federal governments had contradicting views on who had power over what. These disagreements had a role in the start of the American Civil War. Once cooperative federalism came into play, state and federal governments were able to come together to collaborate on various matters, such as funding programs and social and economical issues.

The Great Depression is a great example of how the federal government worked with states to provide funding. As a result of the Great Depression, the New Deal was created by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration to expand the federal grant system, which addressed the detrimental economic issues states were facing.

Examples of Cooperative Federalism

Following the cooperative federalism era, creative, contemporary, and progressive federalism appeared under different presidencies. The Trump Administration switched back to a dual federalism system, which altered some of the powers between the states and federal government.

Even though there have been a number of federalism systems, cooperative and dual federalism remain the two major forms of federalism. States are encouraged to collaborate with the national government on certain policies through a grant-in-aid system. This means that the national government provides money to states for certain things like education, alleviating poverty, and transportation.

When states choose not to adopt federal policies, the national government can choose to withhold funding from states. The following programs and laws operate under a cooperative federalism system that requires local, state, and federal governments to work together to solve common issues.

Environment and Natural Resources Division

The Environment and Natural Resources Division is an organization that operates as a part of the U.S. Department of Justice. The ENRD works with states to enforce various environmental laws and protects the natural resources of the nation. The division is split up into 10 categories that have separate functions, such as environmental enforcement, land acquisition, natural resources, and wildlife and marine resources.

ENRD operates under a cooperative federalism system because the national government helps fund states that adopt policies to protect the environment. This gives the state and federal governments the ability to prosecute individuals or businesses that violate state and national environmental laws.

For example, the national government collaborates with state and local governments to prosecute those that violate pollution-control laws, such as the Clean Air Act. ENRD also provides states with funding, training, and resources to enforce environmental laws and programs that support federal policies.

New Deal

The New Deal is recognized as the turning point for federalism. Since states were unable to address the severe economical issues that arose during the Great Depression, the national government needed to step in and take control. Essentially, the national government had to work with the states to come up with a plan on how to get the states out of poverty.

Some of the programs and reforms that were put into place under the New Deal included emergency relief programs, Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Social Security Act. Beforehand, the national government didn’t have as strong of a hold on social and economic state affairs. The New Deal was able to improve the conditions brought on by the Great Depression, but it also gave the federal government more power that was previously given solely to states.

Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations

Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations

The Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations appeared in 1959 in an effort to improve cooperation between local, state, and federal governments. The ACIR monitored federal system conditions and convened with government officials and private citizens to address common issues.

The goal of the Commission was to improve governmental functions on all levels by assessing areas that needed to be addressed, such as certain government services, programs, and funding. The Commission was terminated in 1996 upon the Public Law 104-52, which allowed for the funds to be taken over by the Executive Office of the President, Treasury, U.S. Postal Service, and other independent agencies.

Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Case

The Brown v. Board of Education ruling deemed segregation of educational facilities unconstitutional. Before the Brown v. Board of Education case, states were allowed to segregate schools. Expecting backlash from southern states, the Supreme Court worked with state attorney generals to come up with plans on how to start the process of school desegregation.

The plans to desegregate schools were named Brown and Brown II. By 1955, it was decided that the desegregation of all schools in the nation was to be done so with “deliberate speed”. The Brown v. Board of Education is a great example of how the cooperative federalism system allowed for the national government to step in and take control of education laws and policies that the states were required to adopt.

National Association of State Departments of Agriculture

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture was founded in 1916 to improve American agriculture through various policies, partnerships, and public engagement. The board members of the NASDA are responsible for regulating and promoting state and federal agricultural programs. The organization monitors various agricultural programs that involve food safety, conservation, and animal and plant health.

The NASDA not only has the power to implement programs within the states, but they also create plans for the federal government. One example of how the NASDA works with the state and federal governments is its partnership with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Members of the NASDA work with the FDA to carry out programs and laws, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), to control food safety regulations.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cooperative Federalism

Cooperative federalism is not meant to take powers away from the states. The system is meant to allow the national government to step in and address issues that states are unable to fix alone. However, some may view cooperative federalism negatively because it does give the national government the authority to take over particular issues when needed.

Advantages of Cooperative Federalism

One of the biggest advantages that cooperative federalism provides is grant-in-aid funding. Sometimes states aren’t able to acquire enough funding from local governments to implement programs that are needed. When this happens, states can apply for grants to receive funding.

The three main types of grants that states can receive are formula, project, and block grants. Block grants are the most common because these grants allow states to receive funding for things like infrastructure.

Another big advantage to cooperative federalism is the promotion of conservation and preservation through environmental programs and resources. Under federal law, states are required to monitor pollution and land use.  It’s important for the federal government to create environmental regulations to reduce pollution and preserve natural resources that we need.

Disadvantages of Cooperative Federalism

Disadvantages of Cooperative Federalism

If states decide not to adopt federal government policies, they won’t receive as much funding in these areas as other states. This can be viewed as an unfair system since states generally want to have the power to make their own decisions. People may also view cooperative federalism negatively because it allows the federal government to intervene in state matters.

Considering the long history of disagreements in power between state and federal governments, some may think that cooperative federalism limits the power of states. Depending on the circumstances, the federal government does limit state power. However, this is not the main goal or intention of cooperative federalism. Limitation of powers may happen as a result of certain laws and regulations that are put in place.

Examples of Cooperative Federalism: Final Thoughts

Cooperative federalism allows state and federal governments to work together to solve common issues. When programs and laws are implemented under cooperative federalism, government officials collaborate with each other to create plans that address the issue at hand. The system also allows the national government to intervene when states are facing a major crisis. Overall, these programs and plans are intended to benefit the states and the nation as a whole.

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