Chapter 3: Local Governments
States are part of our Federal System of Government. Their existence is acknowledged by the U.S. Constitution and their powers are limited by the U.S. Constitution, BUT THEIR POWERS DO NO DERIVE FROM THE U.S. CONSTITUTION.
The States derive their powers from the PEOPLE of that state and from their own STATE CONSTITUTIONS.
All 50 States are unitary systems of government. Local and county governments derive their powers from the State Constitution and State Statutory Law. They are administrative subdivisions of the State with limited powers of self-government. They are "creatures of the state."
Local and County Governments are "Creatures of the State".
They are administrative subdivisions of the State with limited powers of local self-government. Whatever local governments do must be specifically authorized by the State Constitution and/or State Statute.
a. Largest county in size- Brewster county with 6,000 square miles
b. Smallest county in size- Rockwall county with 147 square miles
c. Largest county in population- Harris County (Houston area) with 3 million people
d. Smallest county in population- Loving county with 100 people
*Referendum: a procedure for submitting proposed laws or amendments to the people
* Initiative: certain number of voters sign petition; goes directly to the ballot for people to vote on
* Ordinance (local law): a statute enacted by a local government; it has the force of law, but must comply with state and national laws; TX cities (not counties) have ordinance-making powers
- to set tax rate and adopt county budget
- appoint county officials
- fill county electives and appoint vacancies
- administer elections
- let contracts and authorize payment of all county bills
- build and maintain roads
- build and maintain prisons
- libraries, hospitals and medical care for poor
- provide emergency relief
- provide fire protection
- draws precinct linesmust have equal population as mandated by U.S. Supreme Court case Avery vs. Midland County
2. County Judge
appoints replacement if there is a vacancy within the commissioners
Texas constitution gives the county judge some judicial responsibilities, but does not require the office holder to have a law degree.
Most urban counties have county courts that relieve the county judge of judicial duties
3. County level Officials
Sheriffchief law enforcerthere is one sheriff per county and the constitution allows up to four constables per county; Appoints deputies; In charge of county jail;
County Clerkprovides the staff support for the commissioners court and is the clerk of district courtsalso keeps records in the county court house, such as birth certificates and marriage licenses;
- three levels---county attorney, district attorney, criminal district attorney
- represents state in bringing charges against the criminal suspects and trying them in appropriate courts;
- provides legal advice and opinions to other county officials;
Treasuremanages funds for county; Receives and pays out all county funds; Job has been abolished in some counties;
District Clerkassists county clerk by maintaining court documents and records;
Surveydetermines property lines (most counties do not have this positionno need for it)
Tax Assessor and collectorcollects taxes for county and state, also handles voting registration in some counties unless commissioner's court designates otherwise; It also license fees for vehicles;
Auditorall counties with 10,000 or more in population are required to have an auditorthey are appointed by the district judges of the county for 2 year termsresponsible for reviewing every bill of the county to assure its accuracy.
Property Tax about 50%
- county wide tax appraisal districtcreated to determine the value of the property;
- commissioners court determines the tax rate, however, can not exceed more than 80 cents per $100;
Fees and Finestickets not given within the city limit and on local option basis counties may levy an additional local road and bridge free up to $10;
Intergovernmental transfersgrants from the state and federal government (Individual Texas counties vary greatly in both revenue and expenditures, depends on whether rural or urban, small or large, poor or rich);
* Densely populated counties will tend to spend the most on hospitals, health and welfare;
* Rural counties tend to spend more on highways and transportation;
* Counties do not have complete control over their spending;
*Roads and bridges are the most expensive outlays;
II. City or Municipal Government
- water conservation
- smoking laws
- leash laws
- building safety
- fire arms
- fire works
- noise control
Among the major cities in the U.S. this form is the predominate structure; Used by most cities in the U.S.
Mayor has more power
Appoints or removes department heads
Mayor lacks the above powers
started from the city of Galveston in the 1900s. They combined the legislative and executive branch thinking it would be more efficient without the middleman. The commission serves as a policy making branch of the city and individual commissions function as an executive. No TX home-rule city uses this form
Used by most TX cities
Members elected at-large or in single-member districts
City manager appointed and removable by the city council
City manager implements the city councils policies
2. The General Lawcities of fewer than 5,000 in population or those who do not adopt the Home Rule structure are required to organize their governments in one of the two basic forms.
General Obligation Bondsredeemed out of the citys general revenue fundcitys budget
Revenue Bondsbacked by and redeemed out of the revenues from the property or activity finances by the sell of bondsspecial funds
III. Special Districtsa unit of local government created by an act of legislation to perform limited functions, examples-school, water, and hospital
Independent School Districts(1100 in Texas)These are headed by boards that are elected for 4 year terms. Function is to provide public education. Most important and visible special districts; Members elected at-large or single-member districts; Members not paid;
-In 1983, U.S. did a study about public education and Texas ranked well below natural average in SAT scores, student/teacher ratio and in teacher salaries. Ranked 42nd among states in percent of students who finish high school.
-Governor Mark White made a committee to pass a legislation to improve Texas public education and the committee passed HB72, which included TAAS testing (state tests), and teacher competency testing.
-In 1989, Texas Supreme Court case, Edgewood ISD vs. William Kirby declared funding of school system does not meet the requirement of Texas constitution, so the Robin Hood Plan was developedtaking money from the rich districts and giving to the poor, but soon was founded unconstitutional.
Community or Junior College Districts-offers 2 year educational programs beyond high school and provides different technical and vocational programs. They are fastest growing level of post-secondary education;
-All are a board of trustee that meets once a month governs.
-Funded15% from tuition and fees, 20% by local tax, 60% by state funding and the rest by federal assistance and private donations.
2. Non-school Districts-largest number are water or utilities, some have to do with hospitals and mass transportation
Advantages of Special Districts
- Easy to establish and operate
- State participation a minimum
Disadvantages of Special Districts
- Hidden government
- Overlapping functions and duplication of effort
IV. Council of Governments (COGs)
regional planning activities
* Membership is voluntary
Multiple Choice Questions