Difference Between State and Federal Legislation

State vs Federal Legislation
 

The difference between state and federal legislation originates from the fact that the federal government is for the whole country while that of a state is limited to its territory. The key difference is that the federal legislation is always the strongest in the case of a dispute between these two legislations. In a democratic system of governance, there is a federal or central government along with state or provincial governments in place, and the level of autonomy and the relations between the federal and the state governments are clearly spelt out in the constitution of the country. In United States (we can talk about Australia, Canada, or even India in this regard), there are governments at the federal and state levels, and at these levels, there are three branches of governance namely executive, legislative, and judicial. The reason why people are today talking about differences between federal and state legislation is because of the incongruence heavily skewed in favor of the federal government, which is prompting people (citizens of states) to ask if we are indeed becoming slaves of the federal government.

There is no doubt about the fact that the federal government is very large and powerful. It is a behemoth giving employment to millions of people belonging to different states. The federal legislation is the supreme law of the land, which is what prompts conflict between the federal and state legislation. However, there is only limited supreme authority of federal legislation over state legislation, and there are instances where states have granted broader rights to their citizens than the federal constitution has. This is, however, contingent upon these laws not infringing upon federal constitutional rights. This is primarily the reason why we see the difference in state laws on a given subject as we move from one state to another.

What is Federal Legislation?

Federal legislation is the laws created by the federal or the central government of a country. This law is supreme at all times. Federal legislation is in place to make the country united specially in the case of dealing with other countries. Federal legislation holds the right to decide on fields that has an impact to the country as a whole such as immigration law, bankruptcy law, civil rights law, copyrights and patent law, etc. One look at the constitution, it becomes clear that most of the important laws pertaining to defense, international relations, treaties, currency, financial system, homeland security, etc. are in the hands of the federal government and state governments have to toe the line of the federal legislations.

Difference Between State and Federal Legislation

What is State Legislation?

State legislation is the power a state holds to rule the people living in the particular territory that belongs to the state. It is to be recognized that all the states of the Union are sovereign having their own constitution, governments, and courts having power to make laws covering subjects that are left for them and not preempted by the federal constitution. For example, in Indian constitution, there is a central list of subjects, a state list, and a concurrent list, where both centre and states have the power to make laws. However, the central law is placed above the state law; especially, if it contradicts the spirit of the constitution. In the US, if there is a case where interpretation of the state and federal laws is necessary, this is done by the Supreme Court of the state.

However, most of the state laws are important for the citizens of the state and are unique, depending upon historical roots of the state and its geography and relations with adjoining states. Funding of elementary and secondary education, environmental issues, taxation policy of the state, health and human service, etc. are some of the important state subjects on which state laws hold supreme.

Difference Between State and Federal Legislation

Hawaii State Legislature

What is the difference between State and Federal Legislation?

The federal system of governance in US denotes sub national identities for its constituent states. State governments have political autonomy and have their own constitutions and government with courts. Thus, we have both federal laws, as well as state laws.

• Definition of State and Federal Legislation:

• Federal legislation is the laws created by the federal or the central government of a country.

• State legislation is the power a state holds to rule the people living in the particular territory that belongs to the state.

• Limits:

• There are subjects over which only the federal government can make laws.

• There are subjects over which only the states can make laws.

• Dispute:

• In case of a dispute, the federal legislation has an upper hand over the state legislation.

• Areas of Legislation:

• Federal legislation covers the most important laws pertaining to defense, international relations, treaties, currency, financial system, homeland security, etc. of the country.

• State legislation covers areas such as funding of elementary and secondary education, environmental issues, taxation policy of the state, health and human service, etc.

 

Images Courtesy: The Great Seal of the United States (obverse) and Hawaii State Legislature via Wikicommons (Public Domain)

  • Jeffrey Babb

    nice but confusing