States and Federal Law
• State and local government policymaking is affected by federal
preemptions and federal mandates.
• The federal government prevents state and local governments
from making policy in some policy areas.
• The proponents of preemption believe that uniform national
regulatory standards are preferable to state-by-state regulation.
• In contrast, critics of preemption contend that congressional
efforts to override state authority violate states’ rights principles,
which hold that state legislators know best what policies are most
appropriate for their states.
• A federal mandate is a legal requirement placed on a state or
local government by the national government requiring certain policy
• State and local governments must conform to dozens of
• Mandates can be costly.
• In 1995, Congress and the president responded to complaints
from state officials about unfunded federal mandates by enacting
legislation to limit the authority of Congress to impose expensive
requirements on state and local governments.
Federal Grant Programs
• Federal grant-in-aid programs, which are programs through
which the national government gives money to state and local
governments for expenditure in accordance with set standards and
conditions, play a significant role in state policymaking.
• Program Adoption
• Congress and the president create federal programs through
the legislative process.
• Federal programs must be authorized and funds appropriated
for their operation.
Types of Federal Programs
• Federal programs come in a variety of forms.
• A categorical grant program is a federal grant-in-aid program
that provides funds to state and local governments for a fairly narrow,
specific purpose, such as removing asbestos from school buildings or
acquiring land for outdoor recreation.
• A block grant program is a federal grant-in-aid program that
provides money for a program in a broad, general policy area, such
as elementary and secondary education, or transportation.
• Although categorical grants comprise the overwhelming
majority of federal grant programs, Republican congressional leaders
called for consolidation of many categorical grant programs into block
grants after Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in
the 1994 elections.
• Federal grants differ in the criteria by which funding is awarded.
• A project grant program is a grant program that requires state
and local governments to compete for available federal money.
• A formula grant program is a grant program that awards
funding on the basis of a formula established by Congress.
• Federal grants usually come with conditions.
• A matching funds requirement is the legislative provision that
the national government will provide grant money for a particular
activity only on condition that the state or local government involved
supply a certain percentage of the total money required for the project
• Matching funds requirements sometimes force states and
localities to devote ever growing sums of money to particular
• Congress also imposes legislative mandates on recipients of
Federal Money and Texas
• Texas state and local governments receive billions of dollars in
federal funds annually.
• In addition to money from federal grant programs, Texas
benefits from federal dollars paid directly to individuals or
corporations in the state.
• Nonetheless, many Texas officials believe that their state is
slighted in the receipt of federal grant money.
Why is Texas apparently shortchanged in the provision of federal
• First, the state has sometimes failed to take advantage of the
availability of federal funds because it hasn’t provided matching funds
or met federal guidelines.
• Second, Texas lags behind many other states in the receipt of
federal funds because of its status as a rapidly growing urban state.
• Finally, Texas spends relatively little in state funds on health
care, education, and welfare.
Conclusion: The Federal Context of Policymaking in Texas
• The federal system affects every stage of the policymaking
process in Texas.
• Many issues, including school desegregation and prison
overcrowding, became part of the policy agenda because of federal
• The federal system affects policy formulation.
• The consideration of policy options by state and local officials
often depends on the availability of federal funds and federal
• The federal government influences state policy adoption.
• For example, most states, including Texas, raised their drinking
ages to 21 and lowered their speed limits to 55 because Congress
threatened them with the loss of federal highway grant money if they
did not comply with the federal requirements.
• The federal system affects policy implementation.
• When a state or local government accepts federal funds, it must
agree to follow federal guidelines in program implementation, such as
filing an environmental impact statement for construction projects,
paying union wage scale to contract workers, and ensuring
accessibility for disabled persons.
• Finally, the federal system influences policy evaluation.
• Federal officials act as policy evaluators, determining whether
grant proposals merit continued funding or if state policies are