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State Government • Federal-State Relations
Classroom Activities

Objective: Determine the powers that the governor and legislature of a state do and do not have.

Key Questions:

  • What key provisions in the Constitution lay out the relationship between the federal and state governments?

Notes on Implementation:

  • Extend learning by having students add provisions to the state constitution outlining the responsibilities of the state courts. You may also choose to have students add one or more provisions for the executive and legislative branches as well.
  • If students need support, allow them to work with a partner or small group. You may also want to print out resources from the American Government database and work with students to highlight the provisions related to the activity.

Student Activity: Students can access the below activity in the State Government Topic Center within the American Government database.

Student Activity:

Although state governments share many of the same structures and functions of the federal government, they differ in several important ways. Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution limits the powers of Congress, and Article I, Section 10 limits the powers of the states. The U.S. Constitution grants certain powers exclusively to the national government; the states are therefore prohibited from legislating in regard to them.

In this activity, you will learn about the powers of the states and use what you learn to revise a mock state constitution.

Resources:

Apply:

  1. Review the resources listed to learn about the powers of the state government and the governor. As you read, you may want to make a list of things that states and their governors can and cannot do.
  2. Then assume that you are a citizen in a state applying to become the 51st state of the United States. Some colleagues have drafted a list of laws that they want to incorporate into the state constitution. You have been asked to review the first draft of this document. Your job is to make sure it is aligned with what a state can and cannot do under the U.S. federalist system. Read the document below and strike out any provisions that are not in keeping with the U.S. Constitution. Then, mark things that you might suggest revising with a star. Finally, are there any additional things that you would like to add to the state constitution? Be prepared to defend your changes.
  3. Propose a name for your new state. What do you think would be a good name? Why?

State Constitution

The state government will have two branches: the executive and the legislative branch. Power will be divided between these two branches to establish a system of checks and balances.

Terms and Powers of the Governor:

1. The governor shall be elected to terms of 10 years. There will be no limit on the number of terms the governor can serve.

2. The governor will be allowed to fire elected people in his or her cabinet if they are not of the same party. This will ensure that things run smoothly.

3. The governor will have the power to veto state laws passed by the state legislature. The legislature can override a veto with a nine-tenths majority.

4. The governor will have the power to call in the National Guard in times of emergency, such as responding to a flood, hurricane, or other natural disaster.

Terms and Powers of the Legislature:

5. The state legislature will be bicameral. Members of both chambers will be elected by citizens of the state.

6. Members of the upper chamber will serve terms of 6 years. Members of the lower chamber will serve 2 years. There will be no limit on the number of terms the representatives can serve.

7. The state legislature will have the power to declare war on countries with which our state shares a border.

8. The state legislature, with a three-quarters majority, can veto laws passed by the U.S. Congress if they are not in the best interest of the citizens of our state.

9. The state legislature is responsible for making all laws related to marriage and divorce in the state.

10. All students will be required to attend school. The state legislature will oversee the schools and school districts within the state.

11. The state legislature will require all cities to have police and fire departments to protect and serve the local citizens.

12. All citizens will be required to vote in elections. The state legislature will plan and oversee political elections.

ANSWER KEY:

Key Understandings:

  • State government structures resemble that of the federal government with responsibilities and powers split between three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial
  • State governments both share some responsibilities with the federal government and have some separate areas of responsibility

Possible Answers for Activity:

State Constitution

The state government will have two three branches: the executive, and the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. Power will be divided between these two three branches to establish a system of checks and balances.

Terms and Powers of the Governor:

1. The governor shall be elected to terms of 10 years. There will be no limits on the amount of terms the governor will serve. *Students may note that 10 years is a long time for a term and recommend a shorter term.

2. The governor will be allowed to fire elected people in his or her cabinet if they are not of the same party. This will ensure that things run smoothly.

3. The governor will have the power to veto state laws passed by the state legislature. The legislature can override a veto with a nine-tenths majority. *Students may note that a nine-tenths majority will be very hard to achieve and recommend less stringent rules for an override.

4. The governor will have the power to call in the National Guard in times of emergency, such as responding to a flood, hurricane, or other natural disaster.

Terms and Powers of the Legislature:

5. The state legislature will be bicameral. Members of both chambers will be elected by citizens of the state.

6. Members of the upper chamber will serve terms of 6 years. Members of the lower chamber will serve 2 years. There will be no limit on the number of terms the representatives can serve.

7. The state legislature will have the power to declare war on countries with which our state shares a border.

8. The state legislature, with a three-quarters majority, can veto laws passed by the U.S. Congress if they are not in the best interest of the citizens of our state.

9. The state legislature is responsible for making all laws related to marriage and divorce in the state.

10. All students between the age of 5 and 18 will have the right to attend public school. The state legislature will oversee the schools and school districts within the state.

11. The state legislature will require all cities to have police and fire departments to protect and serve the local citizens.

12. All citizens will be required to vote in elections. The state legislature will plan and oversee political elections.

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MLA Citation

"Federal-State Relations." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com. Accessed 17 Feb. 2019.

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