State and Local Government Chapters

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State and Local Government Chapters

Chapter 1: New Directions for State and Local Government

This chapter covers the following:

  • Studying State and Local Government in the Twenty-First Century

  • State and Local Government Capacity

  • The People: Designers and Consumers of Government

  • Linking Capacity to Results

After reading this chapter, students should be able to understand:

1. The importance of the study of state and local government.

2. The factors that account for the increased capacity of state and local governments.

3. The challenges that state and local governments face in their efforts to solve problems.

4. The underlying importance of people in the study of the institutions, processes, and policies at the state and local level.

5. The importance of understanding political culture and its effect in different regions of the country.

6. The unique characteristics of the fifty-state system that will be tested as they are increasinglychallenged to face the tasks of the new century in the post-9/11 era.
The study of state and local government receives less attention than the study of the national

government. But because nonnational governments are involved in our day-to-day lives, they deserve closer attention. State and local governments are poised to lead the country into the twenty-first century, and they are busy experimenting with new programs and systems to provide public services in an efficient, effective, and equitable manner. Although state and local governments have greater capacity than in the past, they face many challenges in the American system of federalism—a system characterized by conflict and cooperation.

During the 1980s, President Reagan’s efforts to devolve powers to the states and cities were made

easier by the presence of competent, energized nonnational governments. The Clinton administration, despite its emphasis on national goals, recognized the increased capabilities of nonnational governments and sought to enhance their roles as laboratories for policy experimentation. The administrations of George W. Bush, a former governor, have been difficult to evaluate. There has been ample evidence of a willingness to continue to devolve some responsibilities, but the Bush administration pushed large national programs like No Child Left Behind, allowed the federal government to take over airport security, and created a large new cabinet level bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security. These actions sound more like a Democratic administration but President Bush’s administration has been dominated by international problems and the war of terrorism. During times of international crisis, it is not unusual to see many domestic issues drop out of the limelight. While the national government has been unwilling to face many of the domestic problems of a complex society, it has, at the same time, struggled with a variety of issues such as mounting national debt and a burgeoning trade imbalance. For their part, the states have displayed a capacity to act on policy matters important to them, in part because they have since the 1980s loosened the reins on local governments and increased financial assistance to them, thus increasing local government’s capacity.

Modernized state constitutions and institutional restructuring have ensured more streamlined and

workable state governments. The powers of the executive have been strengthened, and professional administrators increasingly staff state bureaucracies. Reapportioned state legislatures, with added staff and higher salaries, have improved those bodies. The establishment of unified court systems has reformed state judicial systems, employment of administrators, and addition of appropriate layers of courts. State and local governments have learned how to increase their effectiveness in the nation’s capital. Seven major associations of nonnational governments or elected officials are supplemented in their lobbying effort by individual state and large-city liaison offices. Further, associations of various nonnational government professionals contribute to this effort. Besides providing information and advice, these groups ensure that the various subnational jurisdictions learn from one another. States are expanding their functions even as the national government reduces its responsibilities. Historically, some states have been innovative leaders and others, followers. But as they come to a larger role in policymaking, more states have become policy innovators or look to their neighbors for advice, information, and models. Means for transmitting information are varied, and often it is done on a regional basis where problems are similar. The quickening flow of innovations has also led to increased interjurisdictional cooperation and fostered a climate that has led to regional organizations created to provide areawide solutions. By solving their own problems, nonnational governments protect

their power and authority within the federal system.
As they have increased in capability, state and local governments have inevitably come in conflict with the national government. Federal laws and grant requirements impose restrictions on state policy, but states encroach on the national government’s turf, too. Tension has increased in recent years as federally imposed unfunded mandates have provoked state and local government hostility. The federal judiciary sometimes resolves these conflicts, but they may also be aggravated as the federal court rulings lead the national government into areas normally reserved for nonnational governments.Conflicts among states arise out of the tensions associated with increased activism, and the conflicts threaten resurgence of the states. The uneven distribution of natural resources in the states and the bidding wars among states attempting to attract the same businesses and industry are particular focal points for this interjurisdictional conflict.

Three unique characteristics of our fifty-state system (diversity, competitiveness, and resiliency)

suggest that nonnational governments can become the new heroes of American federalism. Diversity grows out of different fiscal capacities but is tempered by competitiveness in the federal system, because no state can afford to be too far out of line on taxation and expenditures. This competition stabilizes the federal system. Resiliency describes the ability of state governments to survive and to innovate. With the national government distracted by its own problems, the era of unchallenged national dominance of the federal system is no longer likely. But state governments must still meet the challenge of new demands at the same time that they reduce the size and the cost of government. In the process of meeting these challenges, states are conscious of their reputations. States have their own images and symbols, which influence and reflect public perceptions. These provide a way for understanding states and are important to state governments as they attempt to gain and retain public support for their efforts to reshape themselves.

Nonnational governments are moving into the void created as national government seeks to limit its role in many domestic programs, and the “resurgence of the states” continues to increase nonnational governments’ capacity. Although state and local governments have been revitalized, they must still meet the challenges of financial stress and interjurisdictional conflict if they are to be successful in that role in the twenty-first century. There are many challenges in the new century that will require federal and state cooperation, such as dealing with terrorism.

ACE CHAPTER EXAMS – Use ACE chapter link on the course menu

Your are now ready to apply some of the information included in chapter 1.  To do so, please complete the following activities

Link to Metro's Political Science Home Page at

1.  Select AND explain two important issues outlined in chapter 1.
2.  Select two current events stories you have found in either the print, video or online media.
3.  Explain how these current events are relevant to chapter 1 of the text.

Mail a paper outlining your results to the above to me using the Web CT Mail. Click on the mail link in the navigation bar to the left.

Activity 2
Go to the Hough Mifflin WebSite for your textbook which is:

Take the ACE practice test for Chapter 1and  follow the instructions to mail your results to me at:  

Here is a question for our discussion and course evaluation.
"What problems did you have completing the task above?"
To take part in this discussion, click on the Discussion link in the navigation bar to the left.


Module 2

Chapter 2: Federalism and the States

This chapter covers the following:

  • The Concept of Federalism

  • The History of U.S. Federalism

  • Intergovernmental Relations

  • Models of Federalism

  • Federal Purse Strings

  • The Future of Federalism

After reading this chapter, students should be able to understand:

1. The organizational arrangements for sovereign governments, including federalism.

2. The advantages and disadvantages of federalism.

3. The historic debates among the framers of the Constitution of 1787 over the allocation of powers between the states and the national government.

4. The evolution of the nature of the relationship between the national and state governments and the historic events and court decisions contributing to the changes.

5. The manner in which local governments derive their powers within federalism.

6. The differences among various types of intergovernmental transfers of money.

7. The descriptive models used to portray the American federal system.

8. The forces that cause the continuing shift in the balance of power and responsibility between the national government and the states.

9. The contemporary irritants in intergovernmental relations and how they contribute to the further evolution of American federalism.

10. The current trends of American federalism and the impact of the George W. Bush administration.
Federalism is an important concept for understanding the American political system. The founders of the original United States had to answer the question of the proper allocation of power and responsibility between the states and national government. There are three alternative forms of government the framers could have used: a unitary government, a confederacy, or a federal system. By adopting the Articles of Confederation, they initially established a confederation. Under the Articles of Confederation the nation nearly failed. To rectify the shortcomings, a constitutional convention created a federal system and built into it practical devices to control factions who would otherwise pursue their own ends to the detriment of the larger society. Those safeguards were representative government, three branches of government that contained checks and balances, and a federal system. A federal system is a political arrangement where power is shared between the different levels of government. In the case of

the United States, federalism shares power between the federal government and the states. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with a federal system. It facilitates management of social and political conflict, promotes administrative efficiency, encourages innovation, maximizes participation, and protects individual freedoms. Among the disadvantages are that coordinating the efforts of multiple governments is difficult, a federal system results in duplication of governmental activities, and local interests may damage the national interest.

As the Constitution of 1787 was being written, the framers were at odds in their efforts to satisfy both large and small states. As part of the Great Compromise, the framers created a lower house based on population and an upper house based on equal state membership, thus protecting the small states. The framers also limited the specific powers of the central government to seventeen and established the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of conflicts between the states and the central government. The Tenth Amendment seemed to reinforce the beliefs of those who favored a state-centered federalism. Supporters of this view argued that the Constitution was a compact among sovereign states, and it became the foundation for southern dissatisfaction before the Civil War. The Supreme Court’s decisions under Chief Justice John Marshall increasingly strengthened the nation centered concept of federalism; the Judiciary Act of 1789, based on the national supremacy clause of the Constitution, established the Court as the final arbiter of legal disputes between the national and state governments. Rulings based on the Constitution’s necessary and proper clause, the commerce clause, the general welfare clause, and the Fourteenth Amendment inexorably shifted the system to nation-centered federalism.
The U.S. Congress further increased the power and authority of the central government by its broad interpretations of national powers in the regulation of interstate and intrastate commerce and through taxing and spending authority granted it by the Sixteenth Amendment. The national government added authority by pre-emption of state legislation—a power granted it in Article VI of the Constitution. Thus, the configuration of American federalism today bears little relevance to the original division of powers between the central government and the states provided in the Tenth Amendment.
Local governments are not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. They are creatures of their own states. In 1868, Iowa Judge John F. Dillon’s ruling on the subject of local government powers established that local governments may exercise only those powers explicitly granted them by the state or those clearly implied by these explicit powers. This has come to be known as “Dillon’s Rule.” The relationship between the states and their local governments is a unitary arrangement, meaning that states are supreme. In recent years, however, most state governments have given local government home rule, which provides some discretion and flexibility in carrying out specifically enumerated powers. About half of the states have carried home rule a step further and granted a very broad range of powers to local governments.
The primary mechanism for revenue transfers from the national government to nonnational

governments has been the grants-in-aid. Two major variables in these grants are the amount of

discretion given the recipient and the conditions under which the grant is awarded. Revenue sharing affords the most discretion and permits nonnational government to use it for any purpose; categorical grants afford the least discretion. Located somewhere between the two are block grants, which are limited in use to specific functional areas. Grants often require that matching funds be provided by the grant recipient as proof of commitment. Today categorical grants constitute about 90 percent of the total grant funding.
From 1787 until 1932, national and state powers were actively defined as sovereign and equal in their separate spheres of authority. This authority was called dual federalism, which is represented by a “layer cake” model. Franklin Roosevelt’s efforts to deal with the Great Depression in the 1930s produced an increase in national authority and were termed cooperative federalism, which has been represented by a “marble cake” model. The contemporary variations on cooperative federalism have been variously portrayed as creative federalism, picket-fence federalism, and New Federalism. President Nixon called for a reordering of national-state-local relations using the term New Federalism. It was a reaction to centralization and an effort to free nonnational governments from the conditions attached to federal grants by adopting revenue sharing as a means of carrying on intergovernmental revenue transfer.
In contrast, the main purpose of President Reagan’s plan of the same name was to

shrink the size of the national government. The core of Reagan’s effort was “the turnback proposal,” under which the national and state governments would swap certain programs. It failed in Congress, but Reagan chipped away at grant programs and successfully terminated general revenue sharing.

President George H. W. Bush reaffirmed his administration’s support for earlier Reagan efforts and by 1991 he had successfully proposed “turnovers” in transportation and education programs. But his proposals to shift responsibilities on administration and funding of Medicaid, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, food stamps, and Community Development Block Grants met resistance from both the nation’s mayors and governors. President Clinton did not repudiate the goals of New Federalism, but despite his previous experience as a governor he did not champion major shifts in authority or significantly increase federal aid to nonnational governments.
President George W. Bush, also a former governor, has not altered the goals of the New Federalism. However, it is difficult to evaluate President Bush’s efforts to continue devolution. Thus far, his presidency has been dominated by international affairs, terrorism, and implementing some large-scale, national programs like No Child Left Behind, which resembles programs favored by Democrats in the past.
The American federal system has never been static, and the pendulum has swung back and forth over the lifetime of the Republic. Despite the focus on international matters, the pendulum still continues to swing in the direction of the states. As this shift occurs, cooperative federalism is the operative model today, under a variant known as New Federalism. The fact remains that the states have become and will continue to be very important actors in solving the nation’s problems.


Your are now ready to apply some of the information included in chapter 2.  To do so, please complete the following activities

Link to Metro's Political Science Home Page at

1.  Select AND explain two important issues outlined in chapter 2
2.  Select two current events stories you have found in either the print, video or online media.
3.  Explain how these current events are relevant to chapter 2 of the text.

Activity 2 State Net Research. Using the course link on the course menu. Select two states and explain how the issues discussed in activity one are represented in those states.

Activity 2
Go to the Hough Mifflin WebSite for your textbook which is:

Take the ACE practice test for Chapter 1and  follow the instructions to mail your results to me at:  

Here is a question for our discussion and course evaluation.
"What problems did you have completing the task above?"
To take part in this discussion, click on the Discussion link in the navigation bar to the left.


Module 3 (Chapter3)
Chapter 3: State Constitutions
This chapter covers the following:

  • The Evolution of State Constitutions

  • Weaknesses of Constitutions

  • Constitutional Reform

  • Methods For Constitutional Change

  • State Responsiveness and Constitutional Reform

After reading this chapter, students should be able to understand:

1. How state constitutions are increasingly becoming more favorable to civil rights and civil liberties, and the basis for judicial federalism.

2. The role of the state constitutions under the American system of dual constitutionalism.

3. The origins of early state constitutions.

4. Why legislative supremacy was written into the original thirteen states’ constitutions and why power has increasingly shifted toward state governors.

5. The origins of and problems with long constitutions that follow a positive-law tradition.

6. The essential elements in a state constitution according to the National Municipal League’s Model State Constitution, which reflects a higher-law tradition.

7. The methods for amending state constitutions.

8. The increased importance of judicial review by state supreme courts and their increasing role as judicial activists.

9. The status of revising state constitutions.

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