31 Arizona Law Review 915 (1989)


John MacMullin


In Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority,1 the Supreme Court held that state interests are more properly protected from federal encroachment by the procedural safeguards found in the federal political process rather than by judicially defined limitations.2 Justice Powell, in a strong dissent, asserted that the majority's decision reduced the tenth amendment to "meaningless rhetoric."3 In explaining its decision, the majority observed that State governments, through equal representation in the Senate, retain sufficient influence over the federal political process to insure their autonomy and sovereign interests.4 The Court, however, recognized that the seventeenth amendment, which provides for the popular election of Senators, may have diminished the influence that state governments have over the federal political process and, thereby, the effectiveness of the states' role in that process.5 In South Carolina v, Baker,6 the Court reiterated its position in Garcia, and also held that in order to obtain relief, states must show that the federal political process operates in a defective manner.7

Baker provoked a heated response from the Chairman of the National Governors Association.8 This response typified the reactions of others also alarmed that an excessive centralization of authority in the federal government, and a corresponding denigration of the status of the states in the federal system, may be occurring.9

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1. 469 U.S. 528 (1985).

2. Id. at 552.

3. Id. at 560 (Powell, J., dissenting).

4. Id. at 551-52.

5. Id. at 554.

6. 485 U.S. 505, 108 S. Ct. 1355, reh'g denied, 108 S. Ct. 2837. 100 L. Ed. 2d 937 (1988).

7. 108 S. Ct. at 1361.

8. The Baker decision provoked a heated response from Governor Sununu, Chairman of the National Governor's Association:


This decision is a significant continuation of the inappropriate tilt that shifts the balance of federalism toward centralized federal authority. . . . In combination with the Garcia decision, this decision makes Congress the arbiter and referee of its own decisions.

. . . .

 It is our belief that the Supreme Court abrogated its responsibility as the protector of the rights of the sovereign states, and failed to act as the neutral arbiter between the actions of Congress and the states.  In doing so, the court has threatened the delicate relationship between the states and the national government created by our forefathers.

National Governor's Association, News Release 1-3 (April 20, 1988).

9. [Limiting national power in order to protect the states [is] as much a part of the judicial function as any other issue.. . . .

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