"Substantial Effect” Commerce Clause Power Interactions








Frank’s Fireworks in Southernstate sells fireworks which are priced lower than the federally mandated prices. He can avoid being subject to the federal pricing requirements because he purchases all the components of his fireworks locally and only sells locally, and the federal law only covers fireworks or fireworks components which are moved between states.. Because he undercuts the competition, Frank has become the number one fireworks store in Southernstate, and stores in surrounding states have begun to suffer. Recently Amazon.com and Gateway Computers have decided to branch out and open fireworks stores modeled after Frank’s store. Can anything be done to prevent Frank and the others from side-stepping the fireworks legislation?
Choice 1 NO, the intrastate nature of Frank’s business model, which is what allows him to be so successful, also insulates him and others from federal law.
Choice 2 NO, unless the state steps in a passes legislation similar to the federal law.
Choice 3 YES, because Amazon.com and Gateway Computers are national retailers of consumer goods and therefore subject to Commerce Clause regulation.
Choice 4 YES, because the cumulative economic effect on interstate commerce is significant.
Congress is looking to put an end to domestic violence in this country. In a ground-breaking move, Congress passes a bill which would permit victims of domestic violence to file civil suits against their attackers for “destruction of domestic peace.” Is the new law authorized by the Commerce Clause?
YES, because the aggregate effect of domestic violence is significant and gives rise to national, not just local, problems.
NO, because the activity regulated is not of a commercial nature.
Recently a federally funded study of public schools determined that we were not, as a nation, producing children who would optimize their earning potential. The lost wages have been estimated to be well into the billions. The study suggested that eliminating all current athletic programs nationwide and establishing a mandatory hour of yoga for each student 3 times per week would significantly increase students’ earning potentials. The study itself is flawless and incontrovertible. Based on these findings, Congress passes a bill which puts the recommendation into effect. When a parents; coalition sues, the government defends citing the Commerce Clause. Will the defense succeed?
Choice 1 YES, because the program is national in scope, not local, and is therefore appropriate for Congressional regulation.
Choice 2 YES, because the aggregate loss of income clearly has a significant impact on interstate commerce.
Choice 3 NO, because the aggregate loss of income does not clearly have a significant impact on interstate commerce.
Choice 4 NO, because of the nature of the activity regulated.
Following extensive studies, Congress finds that the high-powered dryers used by many hair salons emit harmful gases which exacerbate people’s allergies, causing them to travel less frequently to certain areas of the country where their increasingly-sensitive allergies are affected In response, Congress passes a law under which every hair salon will be limited in the amount of time they run their dryers any given month. Is this a valid exercise of Commerce Clause power?
Choice 1 YES, because the activity has a substantial aggregate effect on interstate commerce.
Choice 2 YES, because there is no fundamental right involved, so Congress may enact any reasonable regulation aimed at achieving a legitimate government end.
Choice 3 NO, because drying one’s hair is not a commercial activity.
Choice 4 NO, because the law cannot be enforced and is therefore an excessive exercise of federal force.
America is a nation of individuals in debt. In order to help consumers find their way back to full solvency Congress passes the Debt-Free Consumer Act which, among other things, makes it a criminal act to “extend credit in an extortionary manner” (loansharking). Northernstate uses the federal law to convict a local man commonly thought to be involved in organized crime. Is this application of the federal law valid under the Commerce Clause?
Choice 1 YES, because there is a substantial cumulative economic effect on interstate commerce as a result of loansharking.
Choice 2 YES, because there is a substantial cumulative economic effect on interstate commerce as a result of loansharking, AND loansharking itself an inherently economic activity.
Choice 3 NO, because the Commerce Clause cannot be used to create a criminal cause of action.
Choice 4 NO, because criminal activities cannot be aggregated for the purpose of finding a “substantial effect” on interstate commerce.

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