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Copyright (c) 1986 Iowa University
Iowa Law Review

COMMENT: State Autonomy After Garcia: Will the Political Process Protect States' Interests?

July, 1986

71 Iowa L. Rev. 1527


Stephen L. Smith


Judicial interpretation of the commerce clause has had a significant effect on economic and constitutional development in this country. 1 Under the commerce clause, Congress has the power to regulate commerce among the states. 2 The clause functions as a source of congressional authority, 3 and implicitly as a limitation on state legislative power. 4 Some in the legal community have suggested that the Supreme Court's expansion of the commerce clause, an expansion that has given rise to prolific federal legislation, 5 has been at the expense of state autonomy. 6 The Court has at certain times in the past recognized that the tenth amendment may limit federal power under the commerce clause. 7 The tenth amendment provides that powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states. 8 The Supreme Court, however, recently abandoned this solicitude for state autonomy in Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 9 which overruled 10 National League of Cities v. Usery. 11 Consequently, Congress has now apparently been given virtually unrestrained power to regulate state activities under the commerce clause. 12 This Comment analyzes the Garcia decision, focusing particularly on the Court's assertion that the political process is the principle limitation on congressional power to legislate under the commerce clause. The analysis begins with a historical overview of the development of the commerce clause, 13 and a factual analysis of National League of Cities 14 and Garcia follows. 15 The Comment then examines ...
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