Trends in Federalism: Continuity, Change and Polarization

Coercive regulatory trends have displayed considerable continuity since the late 1960s, including a shift of federal aid from places to persons, increased policy conditions attached to federal aid, rising preemptions, federalization of criminal law, encroachments on state tax systems, hollowed intergovernmental institutions, and reduced cooperation within major intergovernmental programs. Two other trends—unfunded federal mandates and federal court orders—have become less significant. A newer trend has been the state-friendly federalism jurisprudence of the U.S. Supreme Court since 1991, although the Court’s 2002–2003 term did not advance this trend. State activism in forging new policies and bucking federal policies continues as well, and is likely to intensify in response to rising partisan polarization.

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About the Author
John Kincaid is the Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Professor of Government and Public Service and director of the Meyner Center for the Study of State and Local Government at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. He is also editor of Publius: The Journal of Federalism and former executive director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.