Law School Case Brief
White v. Mass. Council of Constr. Emplrs - 460 U.S. 204, 103 S. Ct. 1042 (1983)
Where state or local government action is specifically authorized by Congress, it is not subject to the Commerce Clause even if it interferes with interstate commerce.
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 26 provided an absolute hiring preference for commonwealth residents for certain state-funded construction projects. Defendant Kevin White, Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts, issued an executive order requiring all construction projects funded in whole or in part by city funds or funds that the city had authority to administer to be performed by a work force at least half of which are bona fide residents of the city. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held the order unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause. Plaintiffs, Massachusetts Council of Construction Employers and other interested groups, sought declaratory and injunctive relief, the Sandupreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that the order was unconstitutional under the commerce clause of the United States Constitution, Art I, § 8, cl 3. The United State Supreme Court granted certiorari review.
Did the Mayor’s executive order that all construction projects funded in whole or in part by city funds or funds which city had authority to administer be performed by work force consisting of at least half bona fide residents of Boston violate the Commerce Clause?
The Court held that the application of the order to the contracts did not violate the Commerce Clause. The Court found that insofar as the city expended only its own funds in entering into the contracts for public projects, it was a market participant, not a market regulator. As a market participant, it was not subject to the restraints of the Commerce Clause. The Court also stated that insofar as the order was applied to projects funded in part with funds obtained from federal programs, the order was affirmatively sanctioned by the pertinent regulations of those programs. The Court noted that where Congress specifically authorized state or local government action, as it did in the federal programs, it was not subject to the Commerce Clause even if it interfered with interstate commerce.
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