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State and Local Government Chapters

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State and Local Government ChaptersMODULE 1Chapter 1: New Directions for State and Local GovernmentThis 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 ResultsLEARNING OBJECTIVESAfter 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.CHAPTER SUMMARYThe study of state and local government receives less attention than the study of the nationalgovernment. 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 madeeasier 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 soughtto 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 todevolve 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 andworkable 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 liaisonoffices. Further, associations of various nonnational government professionalscontribute 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 protecttheir 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 withincreased 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


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