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Abstract

The Supreme Court of the United States held in National League of Cities v. Usery that Congress had exceeded its powers under the commerce clause by enacting the 1974 amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act. The reasoning behind the decision was that Congress was prohibited from using the commerce clause in areas which states were considered to be performing an essential government function. Because the Supreme Court did not explain precisely what is considered an essential government function, courts have been forced to make case-by-case determinations in deciding these types of cases. One area were these issues are brought to the fore is railroad employee regulation because of the essential nature of commuter rail transportation. This Note provides an examination of the National League case. It then attempts to analyze the "essential government function" language of the decision and formulate a coherent definition of the term. Finally, it examines the impact of the clear definition on some local regulations of commuter rail transportation.

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