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042 Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states?

42. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one
power of the states?
• Provide schooling and education • Give a driver’s license
• Provide protection (police) • Approve zoning and land use
• Provide safety (fire departments)

Sometimes people who come to the United States from other countries are surprised by the differences among individual states. Things that are legal (or allowed by law) in one state may not be legal in another! Many of the things that are determined (or decided) at a national level in other countries are determined at the state level in the United States. Let’s take a look at some of the powers that states have.

First, states have the power to provide schooling and education. The United States does not have a national educational system. Each state can establish (or create) its own requirements. This means that a student in a school in one state may study different things from a student in another state even though those two students are the same age and in the same grade. That is why high schools in some states require that their students study foreign languages or complete three years of math, while high schools in other states don’t have those requirements.

States also have the power to provide protection for the people who live there, and they do this by having state police forces (or groups of people and organizations that protect ordinary people). The federal (or national) government has an army for fighting internationally, but the states have the police to take care of problems within the state. Individual cities can have police forces, too.

Each of the fifty states are also responsible for providing safety for the people who live there. They do this by having firefighters who can put out (or end) fires when they get out of control.

Driver’s licenses (or permission to drive a car) are under the domain (or responsibility) of the states. Each state can decide who is allowed to get a driver’s
license, and those driver’s licenses look different in each state. There is no national driver’s license in the United States.

Finally, individual states have the power to approve zoning and land use, or the rules for what kinds of things the land can be used for, such as for housing, business, or parks. The federal government cannot tell the states how to use their own land unless there is federal land within a state.


to determine – to decide; to identify
* The education department determined that students would do better if they were in smaller classes.

to establish – to create; to start; to form
* The university was established in 1924.

police force – a group of people and organizations that protect ordinary people from crime
* In general, people in our state feel safer in the cities with large police forces.

federal – national; related to the entire country
* Most of the United States' most important federal buildings are in Washington, DC.

to put out – to end something, especially a fire
* Ingot put out the kitchen fire by pouring water on the stove.

driver’s license – a card that gives one permission to drive a car, usually with one’s picture on it
* Most Americans can get a driver's license when they are 16 years old.

domain – responsibility; the area where someone or something is in control
* Do you think that cooking and laundry are only a woman's domain?

zoning – land use; the way that land may be used for specific purposes
* According to the new zoning laws, this is an industrial district.