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State and Local Government
Overview, Key Understandings & Questions

Theme Key Understandings

  • Local governments play a critical role in citizens' everyday lives, providing services such as police and fire protection, utilities, and education
  • The size and organization of a local government impacts the way it functions
  • State government structures resemble that of the federal government with responsibilities and powers split between three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial
  • State governments both share some responsibilities with the federal government and have some separate areas of responsibility
  • The resources of a community impact its government's policies and effectiveness
  • States often serve as laboratories for government policy at the national level
  • States' election policies directly impact political outcomes at all levels of government

Key Questions

Functions of Local Government

  • Why is local government so critical to the everyday lives of citizens?
  • Find two examples from American history where changing conditions lead to significant changes in the way local governments planned for growth and provided services.
  • Why are there often such great disparities in the level of service provided by local government agencies?

Structure of Local Government

  • Compare and contrast the three primary types of local government organization.
  • Why are special purpose districts critical to the provision of local government services?

Federal-State Relations

  • What key provisions in the constitution lay out the relationship between the federal and state governments?
  • How does the federal government use funding grants to states as a way to try and shape state government policy?

Three Branches of State Government

  • What are the primary responsibilities of the executive branch of the state government? Compare and contrast it with the U.S. presidency.
  • Explain the differences between progressive and Jacksonian traditions in the organization of state governments. How might these traditions lead to different outcomes in state policy?

The Governor's Office

  • What two powers do state governors usually have that give them extensive policy making authority within their states?
  • Explain how states change the governor's power, especially as it relates to the legislative process.

State Bureaucracy

  • How can the selection process for high-ranking bureaucrats interfere with a governor's ability to influence public policy in some states?
  • Discuss three ways states raise money through taxation.
  • Why would states use different models to raise revenue for their states? How can these differences in revenue lead to differences in policy?

State Election Systems

  • How do differences in state election procedures impact policy decisions at both the federal and state levels?
  • What are some of the major historical reforms that have been made to the voting process?
  • Evaluate the likelihood of standardized voting procedures being implemented across the United States and explain your reasoning.

MLA Citation

"State and Local Government." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/2142500. Accessed 17 Feb. 2019.

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Entry ID: 2142500

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