Understanding State Constitutions

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Princeton University Press, 2000 - Law - 247 pages
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For many Americans, the word "constitution" means just one thing: the national Constitution. According to a recent survey, almost half do not know that individual states also have constitutions. Scholars have also paid little attention to state constitutions, favoring the apparently more dynamic and significant federal scene. G. Alan Tarr seeks to change that in this landmark book. A leading authority on state legal issues, he combines history, law, and political science to present a thorough and long-needed account of the distinct and important role of state constitutions in American life.

Tarr shows that state constitutional politics are dominated by three crucial issues with little salience at the national level: the distribution of power among groups and regions within states, the scope of state and local governmental authority, and the relation of the state to economic activity. He explains how state constitutions differ from the national Constitution in treating not only matters of high principle but also such mundane subjects as ski trails and motor vehicle revenues. He also explores why state constitutions, unlike their federal counterpart, have been so frequently amended and replaced. Tarr concludes that the United States not only has a system of dual constitutionalism but also has dual constitutional cultures.

Powerfully argued and meticulously researched, the book fills an important gap in political and legal studies and finally gives state constitutions the scholarly attention they richly deserve.

 

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Contents

The Distinctiveness of State Constitutionalism
6
Explaining State Constitutional Development
29
EighteenthCentury State Constitutionalism
60
NineteenthCentury State Constitutionalism
94
TwentiethCentury State Constitutionalism
136
State Constitutional Interpretation
173
Bibliography
211
Index
237
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About the author (2000)

G. Alan Tarr received his doctorate from the University of Chicago. He is a distinguished professor of political science and director of the Center for State Constitutional Studies at Rutgers University, Camden. Professor Tarr has served as a constitutional consultant in Russia, South Africa, Cyprus, and Burma. A three-time NEH Fellow, he is currently completing a study of judicial independence and accountability in the American states.

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