STATE AND LOCAL
O’Connor and Sabato
Continuity and Change
STATE AND LOCAL
In this chapter we will cover…
1. The Evolution of State and Local
2. Grassroots Power and Politics
3. State Governments
4. Local Governments
5. Relations with Indian Nations
The Evolution of State
and Local Governments
Governance in the United States is by multiple
authorities. Sometimes they work together, other
times they seem to work at cross purposes.
– At independence, the thirteen colonial governments
became states tied together in a loose confederation
under the Articles.
– They formed a federal union in the late 1780s in order
to address the weakness of the confederative model.
– States create and determine the powers of local
governments in our system.
The Evolution Continued
– In 1962, the Supreme Court forced the states
to redistrict and become more representative of
the states’ population. In Baker v. Carr, the
Court applied the Fourteenth Amendment's
Equal Protection Clause to voters.
• The ruling of “one man, one vote” required that
legislatures redistrict so that all districts have an
equal number of constituents.
The Evolution Continued
• During the 1960s and 1970s, the
national government added to the
responsibilities of the state and local
–Federal programs to fight poverty,
promote urban renewal, and protect
the environment were administered at
the state and local levels.
The Evolution Continued
• In the 1990s, the clear message was that state and
local governments were increasingly important.
• States, cities, and local governments are taking
bold initiatives and establishing direct ties with
each other and with other countries to spur
• Governors have become important national
actors. State legislators, county officials, city
managers, and other officials now travel the
globe promoting the interests of their
Grassroots Power and Politics
• Most small towns have a local dynasty--some big
towns have them, too.
• State politics, and particularly local politics, are
often more personal, non-partisan, and issue-
oriented than national politics.
• A full understanding of what happens at the
grassroots includes an appreciation of local elites,
local issues, local news media, and issue-specific
organizations through which local and state
governments make and implement policies.
• The primary responsibilities of state governments are:
– public health
– economic development
– criminal justice
– the licensing and regulation of professions (teachers, social
workers, doctors, lawyers, barbers/stylists, architects, etc.)
• Additionally, states have become more active in
welfare and environmental issues both on their own
and as administrators of national programs.
• State constitutions generally limit the powers of
the state governments.
• After the Civil War, the states of the South were
forced to adopt new constitutions acceptable to
the victorious North. Often these constitutions
gave significant powers to former slaves and
disenfranchised the traditional elites.
• After Reconstruction, these states adopted yet
newer constitutions reflecting white distrust of
power and providing for weak governments.
• Western states also chose weak governments.
• Many Western states allow voters to enact
legislation through initiatives and recall elections
to remove officials from office.
• The trend has been to strengthen state
governments so that they can more effectively
deal with important issues.
• Terms of governors have been lengthened, and
they have been given additional authority over
• Legislatures have become full-time with more
adequate pay, and courts were strengthened.
• Governors are the chief executive officers of the
states. They have both ceremonial and
• In most states, governors:
– propose the budget
– have veto authority
– have appointment powers
– have power to pardon someone who has been
convicted of a crime
– can commute sentences, grant parole, and extradite
• All states except Nebraska have bicameral
• By 1999, twenty states limited the number
of terms a legislator could serve. The
limits range from six to twelve years.
• State legislatures are still primarily part-
time bodies. There is abundant turnover--
over 25% of seats each election.
• The primary function of courts is to settle disputes.
Criminal behavior, family law, contracts, and land use
are all issues for state law and state courts.
• State court judges are are usually elected to the bench
for a specific term.
• Sixteen states have partisan elections to the bench,
another sixteen states hold nonpartisan elections.
• Six states use gubernatorial appointments. The
remaining states use the Missouri Plan in which the
governor selects appointees from a list prepared by an
• Elections are the methodology for
determining who will direct the institutions
of state government.
• Highly partisan… however, campaigns are
usually centered on individual candidates.
Patterns of Party Competition in
• Direct initiative: The process in which
voters can place a proposal on a ballot and
enact it into law without involving the
legislature or the governor.
• Indirect initiative: The process in which
the legislature places a proposal on a ballot
and allows voters to enact it into law
without involving the legislature or the
Formed by a charter—a document that specifies
basic procedures, politics, and institutions of any
local municipality. Similar to a constitution.
Counties: subdivisions of every state except
Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Towns: government in which everyone is
invited to an annual meeting for elections,
budget discussions, etc.
Municipalities: villages, towns, and cities
Special Districts: school districts, etc.
Types of Charters
for Local Governments
• Special Charters
• General Charters
• Classified Charters
• Optional Charters
• Home Rule Charters
Executives and Legislatures
Local governments have some or all of
the following decision-making positions:
• Elected executive: mayor, village
• Elected council or commission: city
council, school board, county board.
• Appointed manager: city manager, school
Relations With Indian Nations
• Treaties between the national government and Indian
nations directly affect thirty-four states.
• The status of Indian tribes today is that of “domestic
• The national government has ceded authority to the
states, except for several specific areas such as gaming
and criminal behavior.
• The two most important features of federal-tribal
relations for state and local governments are land rights
and treaty provisions for hunting, fishing, and
• Unlike the national government, states and localities
must balance their budgets.
• States receive as much as 25% of their funds from
• Local governments get as much as 15% of their money
from the federal government.
• Different governments depend on different taxes and
fees for revenue.
– States rely primarily on income and sales taxes.
– Local governments tend to rely on property taxes and some
sales tax income.
– Both local and state governments levy users fees for parks,
hunting licenses, tuition, and so on.
State and Local Tax Burdens