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What is a State Statute?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 17, 2024
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In the United States, a state statute is a law that has been enacted by a state legislature. These laws apply only to the state in question, as opposed to federal statutes that apply to the entire country. State governments typically have a large degree of leeway when passing laws, though the Constitution indicates that if a state statute contradicts a federal statute, the federal one takes precedence. Many statutes are similar or identical between states, though there are often key differences. In order to avoid the confusion that can come from this disparity, contracts between parties in different states will typically spell out which location any conflict resolution must take place in.

The Tenth Amendment in the Bill of Rights guarantees that powers not specifically reserved for the federal government are instead held by the states or the people. This allows each state to have its own constitution, which outlines the powers and responsibilities of the state government. The state constitutions can also provide the basis for states to pass their own laws. These documents are often much longer and more detailed than the US Constitution.

Each of the individual states in the US has a bicameral legislature similar to the US Congress with the exception of Nebraska, which has a unicameral legislature. These legislatures are responsible for enacting laws in their respective states, in much the same way that the US Congress does for the country as a whole. A state statute can do a variety of different things, including restricting or regulating an activity, authorizing a variety of actions, or making declarations. State legislatures are also typically responsible for enacting taxation and formulating or authorizing state budgets.

One area that many states differ from each other is in taxation statutes. Each state government gathers revenue for their operating budgets in different ways, with some focusing on sales taxes while others have statutes that allow for property taxation. Individual states may also differ on their statutes of limitation for various classes of crimes. These statutes can differ depending on whether a case is civil or criminal, the class of crime, and the state in which the law is enacted.

Like federal laws, each state statute is subject to the limitations of the Constitution. Where state statutes are concerned, each law much conform to both the state constitution and the US Constitution. In much the same manner as federal law, a state statute is subject to judicial review. This means that any laws the judiciary determines are unconstitutional may be subject to amendment or nullification.

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