The Evolution of State and Local Government
If you ask most people today what level of government they have the most involvement with and that impacts their lives the most, they will undoubtedly respond with, “the State and local governments”; this is true for most Americans. From police and fire protection, to transportation, to conducting business, the citizens of America depend on their State and local governments to respond to their increasing needs. With this increase in demands, are we asking too much of our officials and will they be able to continue to respond with local, innovative ideas or will they grow into a mega-bureaucracy with stifling inflexibility? This paper will look at State and local government’s history, point out key legislation that made it what it is today and look at what the future may hold for local leaders.
The original thirteen colonies under British charters set the foundation of state government for the United States. The independent systems of self-government were based on the “Rights of Englishmen”, where most white men could vote (Swindler, 1976). Colonists believed they should not be taxed without representation in Parliament. The Provincial Congresses were formed with elected representatives leading the formation of the Continental Congress.
Under the Articles of Confederation, the thirteen colonies, or states, had a tremendous amount of control over their affairs, which many people wanted. Conversely, there were also many people who insisted on a strong national government that limited power to the colonies. A compromise was reached by the Founders of the new nation and what is known as the “federal system” was created which balanced the power between the federal, state and local governments (Buda, 2007). While this decentralization may be slow to react at times and creates redundancies, its value lies in the fact that local governments can represent our large, diverse population more efficiently and respond to unique situations more effectively than a centralized government (Buda, 2007).
The structure used for state governance is the federal system with an executive, legislative and judicial branch. The Tenth Amendment gives powers to the states. The legislative branch has two chambers; the senate usually elected from districts according to county lines and the House of Representatives. In 1964 the US Supreme Court ruled that districts had to be of equal population for elections. The executive branch head is an elected governor with branch members; lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, commissioner of agriculture and commissioner of education. State government operations vary from state to state. The judicial branch structure and methods of selection for judges is decided by the state. State court has final say on issues of state law. Various other offices of the state deal with other issues. Counties and towns were created by the state for local...