Scott Gaylord authors column for New York Times

Elon Law Professor Scott Gaylord contributed to the Room for Debate section of the New York Times, writing about the changing power dynamics between state and federal government. 

Gaylord, the Jennings Professor and Emerging Scholar at Elon Law, was invited to contribute to a New York Times discussion of “State Politics Vs. the Federal Government.”

The Times introduced the discussion with the following commentary:

“The ideological shift in North Carolina, combined with the new abortion law in Texas and the Supreme Court’s federalist leanings, are spawning a renewed emphasis on states’ rights that could be felt for decades on the national stage. Do state politics now matter more than national politics?”

Gaylord’s column, titled “States Need to Keep Federal Power From Overstepping,” traces the shifting balance of power between state and federal government, since the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, through the New Deal and into recent times.

“The expansion of administrative agencies and other federal programs have encroached on state sovereignty, often with little or no resistance from the states themselves,” Gaylord writes. “But the winds of change are blowing in states across the country.”

Gaylord cites recent activity of governors and state attorneys general, challenging federal laws and actions of federal agencies through law suits, as well as several decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that emphasized the limits of federal power, as evidence of momentum toward increased state power.

“Yet even in these cases, federal supremacy lurks in the background, ready to limit the reach of state political power,” Gaylord writes. “As evidenced by the court’s 5-4 decisions in N.F.I.B., Shelby County and Windsor, the Supreme Court has been the last arbiter of the balance between state and federal power, and that balance is dictated by the narrowest of margins. Consequently, federal politics, including the next Supreme Court appointment, may determine the scope of state sovereignty for years to come.”

Joining Gaylord in the Room for Debate discussion in the New York Times were the following contributors:

Lara M. Brown, political analyst and author of “Jockeying for the American Presidency”; John B. Judis, senior editor of The New Republic; Heather K. Gerken, J. Skelly Wright professor of law at Yale Law School; Michael C. Dawson, John D. MacArthur professor of political science and the director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago; Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a nonprofit organization that tracks money in politics; Mark Fratrik, vice president and the chief economist of BIA/Kelsey, a research and consulting firm.

Elon Law Professor Scott Gaylord’s New York Times column, “States Need to Keep Federal Power From Overstepping,” is available here.

More information about Professor Gaylord is available here.