Local government in the United States
Identify the three main types of local government and how they are different. Identify the three basic forms of county government. Expert Answer. Three main types of Local Governments are as follows: Municipalities Regional Municipalities Rural Communitie view the full answer. Local governments generally include two tiers: counties, also known as boroughs in Alaska and parishes in Louisiana, and municipalities, or cities/towns. In some States, counties are divided into.
Powers not granted to the Federal government are reserved for States and the people, which are divided between State and local governments. Most Americans have more frequent contact with their State and local governments than with the Federal Government.
Each state has its own written constitution, and these documents are often far more elaborate than their Federal counterpart. The Alabama Constitution, for example, containswords—more than 40 times as many as the U. All State governments are modeled after the Federal Government and consist of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.
The U. In every state, the Executive Branch is headed by a governor who is directly elected by the people. In most states, what happened to the show downsized leaders in the executive branch are also directly elected, including the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the secretary of state, and auditors and commissioners.
States reserve the right to organize in any way, so they often vary greatly with regard to executive structure. All 50 States have legislatures made up of elected representatives, who consider matters brought forth by the governor or introduced by its members to create legislation that becomes law.
The latter is part of a system of checks and balances among the three branches of government that mirrors the Federal system and prevents any branch from abusing its power. Except for one State, Nebraska, all States have a bicameral legislature made up of two chambers: a smaller upper house and a larger lower house. Together the two chambers make State laws and fulfill other governing responsibilities. Nebraska is the lone state that has just one chamber in its legislature.
The smaller upper chamber is always called the Senate, and its members generally serve longer terms, usually four years. The larger lower chamber is most often called the House of Representatives, but some states call it the Assembly or the House of Delegates.
Its members usually serve shorter terms, often two years. State judicial branches are usually led by the State supreme court, which hears appeals from lower-level State courts. The supreme court focuses on correcting errors made in lower courts and therefore holds no trials. Rulings made in State supreme courts are normally binding; however, when questions are raised regarding consistency with the U. Constitution, matters may be appealed directly to the United States Supreme Court.
In some States, counties are divided into townships. Municipalities can be structured in many ways, as defined by State constitutions, and are called, variously, townships, villages, boroughs, cities, or towns. Various kinds of districts also provide functions in local government outside county or municipal boundaries, such as school districts or fire protection districts. Municipal governments—those defined as cities, towns, boroughs except in Alaskavillages, and townships—are generally organized around a population center and in most cases correspond to the geographical designations used by the United States Census Bureau for reporting of housing and population statistics.
How much money to save for college fund vary greatly in size, from the millions of residents of New York City and Los Angeles to the few hundred people who live in Jenkins, Minnesota. Municipalities generally take responsibility for parks and recreation services, police and fire departments, housing services, emergency medical services, municipal courts, transportation services including public transportationand public works streets, sewers, snow removal, signage, and so forth.
Whereas the Federal Government and State governments share power in countless ways, a local government must be granted power by the State. In general, mayors, city councils, and other governing bodies are directly elected by the people. We'll be in touch with the latest information on how President Biden and his administration are working for the American people, as well as ways you can get involved and help our country build back better.
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Aug 04, · The four types of local governments are counties, townships, special districts and municipalities. Generally, counties cover the largest area. These governments are typically charged with enforcing state laws inside its boundaries. This involves peacekeeping, taxation, road and bridge repair, marriage and death records and property deeds. Oct 26, · October 26th, The United States’ governmental system consists of three levels: local, state and federal. The three levels work together to help implement federal programs and mandates, such as those related to education and the environment. County systems usually take one of three basic forms: the commission system, the council-administrator system, and the council-elected executive system. The most common form of county government is the commission system.
Local government in the United States refers to governmental jurisdictions below the level of the state. Most states and territories have at least two tiers of local government: counties and municipalities. In some states, counties are divided into townships. There are several different types of jurisdictions at the municipal level, including the city , town , borough , and village. The types and nature of these municipal entities vary from state to state.
In addition to these general-purpose local governments, states may also create special-purpose local governments. Many rural areas and even some suburban areas of many states have no municipal government below the county level. In other places consolidated city-county jurisdictions exist, in which city and county functions are managed by a single municipal government. In places like New England , towns are the primary unit of local government and counties have no governmental function but exist in a purely perfunctory capacity e.
In addition to counties and municipalities, states often create special purpose authorities, such as school districts and districts for fire protection, sanitary sewer service, public transportation , public libraries , public parks or forests, or water resource management.
Such special purpose districts may encompass areas in multiple municipalities or counties. According to the US Census Bureau's data collected in , there were 89, local government units in the United States. This data shows a decline from 89, units since the last census of local governments performed in Depending on the state, local governments may operate under their own charters or under general law, or a state may have a mix of chartered and general-law local governments.
Generally, in a state having both chartered and general-law local governments, the chartered local governments have more local autonomy and home rule. When North America was colonized by Europeans from the 17th century onward, there was initially little control from governments back in Europe. Many settlements began as shareholder or stockholder business enterprises, and while the king of Britain had technical sovereignty, in most instances "full governmental authority was vested in the company itself.
The people, owing to the necessity of guarding against the Indians and wild animals, and to their desire to attend the same church, settled in small, compact communities, or townships, which they called towns.
The town was a legal corporation, was the political unit, and was represented in the General Court. It was a democracy of the purest type. Several times a year the adult males met in town meeting to discuss public questions, to lay taxes, to make local laws, and to elect officers. The chief officers were the "selectmen," from three to nine in number, who should have the general management of the public business; the town clerk, treasurer, constables, assessors, and overseers of the poor.
To this day the town government continues in a large measure in some parts of New England. Propertied men voted; in no colonies was there universal suffrage.
Voting was established as a precedent early on; in fact, one of the first things that Jamestown settlers did was conduct an election. Campaigning by candidates was different from today's. There were no mass media or advertising. Candidates talked with voters in person, walking a line between undue familiarity and aloofness. Prospective officeholders were expected to be at the polls on election day and made a point to greet all voters. Failure to appear or to be civil to all could be disastrous.
In some areas, candidates offered voters food and drink, evenhandedly giving "treats" to opponents as well as supporters. Taxes were generally based on real estate since it was fixed in place and plainly visible, its value was generally well known, and revenue could be allocated to the government unit where the property was located.
After the American Revolution , the electorate chose the governing councils in almost every American municipality, and state governments began issuing municipal charters. Ambler decision. The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution makes local government a matter of state rather than federal law, with special cases for territories and the District of Columbia.
As a result, the states have adopted a wide variety of systems of local government. The United States Census Bureau conducts the Census of Governments every five years to compile statistics on government organization, public employment, and government finances. The categories of local government established in this Census of Governments is a convenient basis for understanding local government in the United States.
The categories are as follows: . County governments are organized local governments authorized in state constitutions and statutes. Counties and county-equivalents form the first-tier administrative division of the states. All the states are divided into counties or county-equivalents for administrative purposes, although not all counties or county-equivalents have an organized county government.
County government has been eliminated throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island , as well as in parts of Massachusetts. The Unorganized Borough in Alaska also does not operate under a county level government.
Additionally, a number of independent cities and consolidated city-counties operate under municipal governments that serve the functions of both city and county. In areas lacking a county government, services are provided either by lower level townships or municipalities, or the state.
Town or township governments are organized local governments authorized in the state constitutions and statutes of 20 Northeastern and Midwestern states,  established to provide general government for a defined area, generally based on the geographic subdivision of a county. Depending on state law and local circumstance, a township may or may not be incorporated, and the degree of authority over local government services may vary greatly. Towns in the six New England states and townships in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are included in this category by the Census Bureau, despite the fact that they are legally municipal corporations , since their structure has no necessary relation to concentration of population,  which is typical of municipalities elsewhere in the United States.
In particular, towns in New England have considerably more power than most townships elsewhere and often function as legally equivalent to cities, typically exercising the full range of powers that are divided between counties, townships, and cities in other states. An additional dimension that distinguishes township governments from municipalities is the historical circumstance surrounding their formation.
For example, [ clarification needed ] towns in New England are also defined by a tradition of local government presided over by town meetings — assemblies open to all voters to express their opinions on public policy. The term "town" is also used for a local level of government in New York and Wisconsin. The terms "town" and "township" are used interchangeably in Minnesota.
Municipal governments are organized local governments authorized in state constitutions and statutes, established to provide general government for a defined area, generally corresponding to a population center rather than one of a set of areas into which a county is divided.
The category includes those governments designated as cities, boroughs except in Alaska , towns except in Minnesota and Wisconsin , and villages.
Municipalities range in size from the very small e. In most states, county and municipal governments exist side by side. There are exceptions to this, however. In some states, a city can, either by separating from its county or counties or by merging with one or more counties, become independent of any separately functioning county government and function both as a county and as a city.
Depending on the state, such a city is known as either an independent city or a consolidated city-county. A consolidated city-county differs from an independent city in that in a consolidated city-county, the city and county both nominally exist, although they have a consolidated government, whereas in an independent city, the county does not even nominally exist. In Connecticut, Rhode Island, and parts of Massachusetts, counties exist only to designate boundaries for such state-level functions as park districts or judicial offices Massachusetts.
In the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, there are 78 municipalities and no counties. Municipal governments are usually administratively divided into several departments, depending on the size of the city.
School districts are organized local entities providing public elementary and secondary education which, under state law, have sufficient administrative and fiscal autonomy to qualify as separate governments.
The category excludes dependent public school systems of county, municipal, township, or state governments e. Special districts are all organized local entities other than the four categories listed above, authorized by state law to provide designated functions as established in the district's charter or other founding document, and with sufficient administrative and fiscal autonomy to qualify as separate governments;  known by a variety of titles, including districts, authorities, boards, commissions, etc.
A special district may serve areas of multiple states if established by an interstate compact. Special districts are widely popular, have enjoyed "phenomenal growth" and "nearly tripled in number" from to It is common for residents of major U. In one state, California , the fragmentation problem became so bad that in the California Legislature created Local Agency Formation Commissions in 57 of the state's 58 counties; that is, government agencies to supervise the orderly formation and development of other government agencies.
One effect of all this complexity is that victims of government negligence occasionally sue the wrong entity and do not realize their error until the statute of limitations has run against them. Because efforts at direct consolidation have proven futile, U. These organizations serve as regional planning agencies and as forums for debating issues of regional importance, but are generally powerless relative to their individual members.
Unlike the relationship of federalism that exists between the U. Supreme Court in Hunter v. Pittsburgh , U. In effect, state governments can place whatever restrictions they choose on their municipalities including merging municipalities, controlling them directly, or abolishing them outright , as long as such rules don't violate the state's constitution.
However, Dillon's Rule does not apply in all states of the United States, because some state constitutions provide specific rights for municipalities and counties. State constitutions which allow counties or municipalities to enact ordinances without the legislature's permission are said to provide home rule authority.
A state which is a Dillon's Rule state, but which also allows for home rule in specified circumstances, applies Dillon's Rule to matters or governmental units where home rule is not specifically authorized. The nature of both county and municipal government varies not only between states, but also between different counties and municipalities within them. Local voters are generally free to choose the basic framework of government from a selection established by state law.
In most cases both counties and municipalities have a governing council, governing in conjunction with a mayor or president. Alternatively, the institution may be of the council—manager government form, run by a city manager under direction of the city council.
In the past the municipal commission was also common. Across the US, local governments employ more than ten million people. The ICMA has classified local governments into five common forms: mayor—council , council—manager , commission , town meeting , and representative town meeting.
In addition to elections for a council or mayor, elections are often also held for positions such as local judges, the sheriff , prosecutors, and other offices. Local governments across the US consist of hundreds of thousands of elected officials.
Local elections are often marked by "abysmally low" voter turnout , as these elections are de-synchronized from state and federal elections. While their territory nominally falls within the boundaries of individual states, Indian reservations actually function outside of state control. The reservation is usually controlled by an elected tribal council which provides local services. A census of all local governments in the country is performed every 5 years by the United States Census Bureau , in accordance with 13 USC The following sections provide details of the operation of local government in a selection of states, by way of example of the variety that exists across the country.
Alaska calls its county equivalents "boroughs", functioning similarly to counties in the Lower 48; however, unlike any other state, not all of Alaska is subdivided into county-equivalent boroughs. Owing to the state's low population density, most of the land is contained in what the state terms the Unorganized Borough which, as the name implies, has no intermediate borough government of its own, but is administered directly by the state government.
Many of Alaska's boroughs are consolidated city-borough governments; other cities exist both within organized boroughs and the Unorganized Borough.