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  • Concurrent Powers Definition

  • Concurrent Powers Government

  • Delegated, Reserved, and Concurrent Powers

  • Concurrent Powers: Significance

  • Examples of Concurrent Powers

Home > Resources > What Are Concurrent Powers: Importance & Examples

What Are Concurrent Powers: Importance & Examples

Just like two parents taking care of their kids, the state and federal governments have to coordinate to make sure the needs of their citizens are met. They can't overstep their boundaries, but they also can't let areas fall through the cracks.

If both parents handle grocery shopping, perhaps one oversees purchasing essential items for the month while the other manages meals. In governance, these are referred to as concurrent powers, one of the categories of power granted by the Constitution.

Concurrent Powers Definition

The word "concurrent" means something that's happening at the same time. For example, multiple people playing the same game online would be playing it concurrently.

When it comes to the US government, "Concurrent Powers" refers to powers that are happening at the same time at two different levels of government: the state government and the federal government.

Concurrent powers are those that both the state and federal governments use.

Concurrent Powers Government

To comprehend concurrent powers, we must trace back to the original framework for the United States government.

In the Revolutionary War era, the newly established Congress approved the Articles of Confederation. This system enabled the United States to function as a Confederation, with the original 13 colonies evolving into independent states that united together. While each state retained its individual authorities, the federal government was granted specific powers such as declaring war and negotiating treaties.

The nation swiftly encountered significant issues under the Articles of Confederation. With no power to levy taxes, the federal government accumulated war debts to a critical level. Disputes among states over matters such as slavery and western land ownership arose, but the federal government lacked the necessary power or authority to address these conflicts.


The newly created Constitution sought to address some of these issues. The Constitution created a federalist type of government, which meant that instead of a loose union of independent states, the country would now be united under a strong central government.

However, before the war, each colony had operated independently. Now that they were states and had their independence, many of them didn't want to give up that power to a central government. So they created a style of government called dual federalism, which created a strong government while giving the states their own powers.

Delegated, Reserved, and Concurrent Powers

The Constitution sought to strike the balance of power between the state and federal governments. To do this, it describes delegated, reserved, and concurrent powers.

Delegated Powers

Delegated powers, also referred to as enumerated or expressed powers (refer to Enumerated and Implied Powers), are specifically granted to the federal government by the Constitution.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution outlines the authorized powers of the legislative branch, with many clauses commencing, "Congress shall have power to...".

  • Collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises
  • Pay the Debts
  • Provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States
  • Regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes
  • Create consistent regulations for the process of becoming a citizen and consistent regulations regarding bankruptcies across the entire United States
  • Coin Money
  • Establish Post Offices and Post Roads
  • Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries
  • Establish Tribunal at the Supreme Court
  • Define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations
  • Declare War
  • Raise and support Armies
  • Provide and maintain a Navy
  • Provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions
  • Enact any laws needed to execute the powers granted by the Constitution to the US Government, its departments, or officers

Implied Powers

The Constitution granted flexibility to the federal government by implying powers rather than explicitly stating them. The Founding Fathers, aware of the challenges in anticipating all future scenarios as the nation evolved, incorporated the Necessary and Proper Clause (elastic clause) to authorize Congress to enact laws considered essential to carrying out its duties.

Reserved Powers

The Constitution reserves powers not given to the federal government for the state governments, known as reserved powers. Some states insisted on a bill of rights, leading to the addition of the first ten amendments in 1789.

The tenth amendment emphasizes reserved powers, stating that any powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved for the states:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Examples of reserved powers include running public schools, elections, and local governments.

Concurrent Powers: Significance

The balance of power between state and federal governments has been a contentious issue in American government. The Supremacy Clause in the Constitution establishes federal law as supreme.

In cases of conflict between state and federal law, the Constitution prevails.

Examples of Concurrent Powers

There are numerous shared powers between state and federal governments. Here are some key examples:


Congress passes federal laws, while state legislatures pass laws within their jurisdiction. Most state legislatures are bicameral, like Congress.


Both state and federal governments have the authority to levy taxes to fund programs and services.


States and the federal government create budgets and manage spending, including debt.


The federal government oversees the military, but states can maintain their own forces, such as the National Guard.


States establish courts to enforce laws, while federal courts interpret the federal Constitution. The Supreme Court resolves disputes between state and federal laws.

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