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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Federalism in Florida

How American Federalism Helps and Hurts Florida

The advantages and disadvantages of federalism have been the subject of debate since the formation of the republic. In this essay I am going to discuss two advantages and two disadvantages of federalism in Florida. Webster’s dictionary defines federalism as a system of government in which entities such as states or provinces share power with a national government. The way I see it, the federal government and the states both have power over the same areas, the federal government just has more power. This is displayed in the Constitution, in which the federal government is granted broad powers, but the states are not. This distribution of power came to be when those operating under the Articles of Confederation decided that it granted the states too much power. The Supremacy Clause, an important part of the Constitution was put in place to make sure that the federal government always holds more power than that of the states.

As an American and Florida citizen born and raised, I feel close ties to Florida. I appreciate how federalism allows me to maintain this connection with my home state, and I’m sure many people all over the U.S. feel the same. Another advantage of federalism is the fact that state and local officials are within arms reach of the issues of their areas, making it more just and efficient for them to choose and veto laws that help solve these issues. Federalism helps states become templates for other states, allowing states to observe other states in order to see what works and what doesn’t. “California has frequently led the nation in environmental regulations: Many measures adopted by California are subsequently adopted by other states. And during the 1990s, Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson experimented with welfare policy, and those experiments influenced federal welfare reform” (SparkNotes Editors). Another advantage of federalism is that the federal government doesn’t have as many smaller issues to worry about, so they are now able to focus on bigger, national issues. I think it is great how federalism encourages local people to step up and go for a local government position, and how federalism ultimately ensures liberty through promising the states power regardless of who has power over the three branches of government.

Although federalism boasts many advantages, it also has some downfalls. An example of a disadvantage of federalism is no national policy, meaning each state has its own policies, and this can sometimes lead to disorientation when it comes to law. Federalism can also fail to hold either national or state governments accountable because the lines are blurred. Many people do not feel the need to vote when it comes to state government positions, but in reality they should pay close attention to who is getting elected, because these elected officials and the state government have more power than most people think.

The United States of America is a mixing pot, and therefore one cannot ensure that each and every state will agree with and follow laws passed by one federal government. This is why federalism matters. Federalism ensures unity within states because it gives individual states the power to govern themselves to a certain degree. Federalism gives Florida the power to govern crime and punishment, healthcare, environmental law, and more. One example of how federalism works positively is state laws regarding local endangered species. “Gopher tortoises are a threatened wildlife species and are protected by state law, Chapter 68A-27, Florida Administrative Code. Gopher tortoises must be relocated before any land clearing or development takes place, and property owners must obtain permits from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission before they can move them” (FFWCC). The federal government probably does not have time to document and govern over each and every endangered species in each and every state, which is why state government is important. State government is local, and is able to work to correct local issues that can sometimes be just as important as federal issues.

Federalism is very relevant when it comes to immigration. Florida has the second highest immigrant population in the U.S.- 19 percent. There is argument over whose policy should prevail when it comes to immigration in Florida- the federal government or the state. “Due to a lack of coordination between the various policymaking bodies, immigration enforcement has the potential for cross-jurisdictional conflict and overlap, resulting in uncertainty among immigrants about which policy prevails. Overlapping enforcement authority also constrains localities as they seek to balance enforcement options against commitment to community policing. These factors provide individual officers with substantial discretion” (Ciano). This confusion is the cause for many issues within Florida. Another issue involving immigration in Florida involves two migrant men who overstayed their visas in the U.S., went through public schooling including college in the U.S., went on to try to obtain their law degrees, and caused uproar. “The federal government has moved to block both young men’s bar applications on the theory that it is illegal for them to hold employment, and so no public dollars should support them with professional licensure. Federal law codifies this in 8 U.S.C. § 1621, which prohibits states from issuing a law license to an “unlawfully present alien,” because federal law limits categories of aliens who may receive a professional license that is “provided…by appropriated funds of a state” (Ciano). This issue raised argument between the federal government and the state on who has jurisdiction over this incident.

In conclusion, there are many pros and cons to federalism. A large state like Florida has many internal issues that can be governed by state law, but problems arise when lines between state and federal jurisdiction become blurred, and neither knows which should take control. Advantages include state governments being able to cater directly to their environments and issues going on at a local level. Although federalism still favors the federal government, federalism continues to ensure liberty within the United States of America.

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