• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court upheld congressional legislation mandating that states impose a minimum drinking age of twenty-one as a condition for receiving their full complement of federal highway funds.

By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court upheld congressional legislation mandating that states impose a minimum drinking age of twenty-one as a condition for receiving their full complement of federal highway funds. South Dakota had long had a minimum drinking age lower than twenty-one and argued that states had the right to govern rules over alcoholic beverages after the repeal of Prohibition. South Dakota further argued that the federal law violated federal power under the taxing and spending clause in the Constitution. The Court ruled against the state, holding that four conditions must be met for congressional restrictions on grants to states. First, the spending must be within the general welfare; second, the restriction must be unambiguous; third, the restriction must be related to a federal interest in the project; and fourth, other constitutional provisions may not be violated. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., dissented as did Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who found that the third item the federal government’s interest in highway construction was insufficiently related to the minimum drinking age to merit federal interference in a traditionally state activity.Minimum drinking ageSupremacy, federal;South Dakota v. Dole[South Dakota v. Dole]Minimum drinking age

Butler, United States v.

Federalism

Taxing and spending clause

Twenty-first Amendment

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