Concurrent powers are an interesting concept in political science, and are common to both the federal as well as the state governments. OpinionFront tells you all about concurrent powers, along with a few examples.
Did You Know?
Apart from the U.S., concurrent powers are exercised in several other countries like Australia, India, and Canada, among others.
As we all know, the federal government has certain powers which are used for ensuring the general well-being of the country. Similarly, the state governments also have powers that have to be utilized to ensure the development of the state, as well as maintain its well-being. However, there are some powers which need to be utilized not only at the state level, but also at the national level; for instance, taxation or borrowing money on credit.
The United States Constitution mentions that there should be certain powers that are granted at both the federal and state levels, and which should be utilized by both forms of the government simultaneously. It is also imperative that these powers be utilized only for the well-being of society. These powers are known as concurrent powers.
Concurrent Powers: Definition and Meaning
Legally, concurrent powers are defined as “political powers that are independently exercisable by both federal and state governments in the same field of legislation.” These powers are assigned by the Constitution to the federal government, as also to the states. Concurrent powers may be employed simultaneously by both levels of government in the same territorial area, and on the same set of the population.
If a power is classed as a concurrent power, it cannot be held exclusive by either the federal government or the state governments. Each has the equal right to utilize it for the benefit of the population, which the other has to respect. This means that the federal government cannot bar any state from exercising a concurrent power.
Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States, implied in the Federalist Papers that it was important for the states to maintain their autonomy, and concurrent powers could help them do so. Concurrent powers are brought into existence because the federal government and the states have needs to fulfill, which are similar to one another, such as maintaining peace and order, and economic development.
Examples of Concurrent Powers
The power to impose taxes lies with both the federal as well as the state governments. The federal government imposes various taxes on individuals, such as income tax, sales tax, excise tax, etc. Similarly, the state government may also impose import duties, income tax, property tax, and sales tax. The taxes thus collected by both levels of government from the same population are used for the welfare of the people. So, taxation is a concurrent power.
Whenever required, both the state as well as the federal governments are free to borrow money on credit. However, today, most of the states have made legal provisions to have a balanced budget, meaning that the expenditure of the state will be equal to the revenue collected through taxes.
The federal government as well as the states have the power to hold and regulate elections to choose public officials, at both the federal as well as state and local levels. This concurrent power enables both levels of government to decide the date, time, and manner of elections.
A state has the right to introduce and enforce certain laws at that level without any interference from the federal government, unless the law is biased or unfair to a particular section of society. These laws differ from state to state. For example, marijuana is legal in some states, but not at the federal level.
Create lower courts
The government at the state level has the power to create lower courts underneath the Supreme Court to uphold law and order in the state, and to punish the ones who threaten the peace of society.
Building and maintaining roads
Road construction is another example of a concurrent power. The government at the state as well as at the federal levels is free to build roads and maintain them as and when they deem appropriate.
Protection of the environment
Protecting the environment is again a concurrent power. Both levels of government can organize programs which they feel will benefit the environment.
The examples we cited above are some of the concurrent powers shared by the federal and the state governments. Concurrent powers are ideal for ensuring harmony and well-being in society, at both the state level as well as the national level.