US Government Research Paper
State and Local Governments in the United States
The United States of America is a federal republic. Such a structure of the country assumes the division of powers between local and federal authorities. The local government of 50 states to great extends copies the structure of the federal government. Each state has a representative of judiciary, executive and legislative branches of power. Same as the Congress of the United States, the legislative organizations of each state are bicameral except Nebraska. There is a separate supreme court in each state and in addition each state has its own Constitution. The election of judges resembles the procedure of judges election to the Supreme court of the country.
State governments in the United States have extensive authority. All specific powers, which belong to the Federal government are described by the Constitution. All the other powers belong to local governments. Originally, American States system was designed is such a way to divide the power between Federal and local government in the best way. In the most cases this system works well. Such a division of state power reflects diverse population of the country. America is a big country, which occupies big territory and that is the reason the laws may differ greatly inside one country. Different states have laws and regulations, which suit best way for their reason and people who live there. Such a system enables local authorities to meet the demands of ordinary people in the best way. From the other side, being one country America has common laws, which regulate external politics of the country. Good coordination between different levels of the government ensures effective cooperation inside the country. This is the way the system was designed. Unfortunately, at the present moment there are a lot of doubting issues concerning American governmental system. Ambiguity of some laws, written in the Constitution and different interpretations of same laws and cases by federal courts resulted in the controversies in the power division. Unfortunately, present relations between local and federal government can be characterized as competition. Authorities of separate states and Federal government compete for power. Financing and division of state money is one of core issues of the doubts. Unfortunately, sometimes this withstanding has bad impact on ordinary citizens of the country. Latest tendency for decentralization of the U.S., peculiar to the end of the 20th century, only underlined this controversy. The power of the states grew considerably during the last decades. There are many cases, when the powers of local governments and federal one overlap. For example, both, local and federal governments have the right to tax, to establish courts and enforce laws. These areas become the battle field for local and state authorities. Despite states can not adopt laws, which contradict to the Constitution, producing laws also sometimes becomes a reason of loud debates.
State governments have a wide range of functions. They are responsible for encompassing conservation, licensing, public safety measure and regulation of agriculture and industry. They also implement business regulations and take care about health and education of the state. The government usually is the head of the administrative unite. Local governments are organized as assisting organizations, which aim to carry and protect the power of the constitution. Local governments have a right only to that part of power, which is given to them by the states. Local democracy is a traditional policy of the United States of America. Even the smallest areas of the country have local governments. Like mentioned above, this structure can be explained by the historical peculiarities of the United States, which was traditionally inhabited by different people from all over the world. These people had different needs and they needed different regulations and local government gave that opportunity to the local communities. Municipal or city services make smaller units inside the local authorities. These units are responsible for delivering different services for the cities. From the one side we can see that diverse structure of power division in the United States is designed in order to meet diverse needs of its population. From the other side we can see that such a division can become a source of problems in some cases.
Very often Local and State government want to share rights and powers but forget about responsibilities. The Hurricane Katrina, which caused many harm and destruction in 2005, became a very bright illustration of the problem. The consequences of the Hurricane became devastating not only for the American land. It also caused loud debates about the relations between local and federal government.
Loud dispute, heated by the mass media stated that Federal government failed to give an adequate and timely response to the consequences of the Hurricane. Specialists, who criticized governmental actions, state that instead of necessary help, which it was unable to give, the Federal government did not let of other rescue services to help people. Information about the scope of the tragedy was not delivered timely and this resulted additional human victims. Local government also failed to give timely help to its citizens. Local authorities did not implement the evacuation plan, the victims of the tragedy were left for themselves without shelter, food and water. Bad consequences of this terrible tragedy became the result of both – the failure of the local government to organize timely evacuation and imperfect emergency management, performed by the Federal government. The tragedy illustrated very vividly that local and Federal governments are not able to share not only powers but also duties and responsibilities in a right way. In the case of emergency one separate state was not able to cope with the tragedy, while the Governmental forces were not timely delivered in order to prevent or liquidate the consequences of the tragedy. The consequences of the tragedy made many people doubt the effectiveness of the power division in the country. As we can see competition between the local and federal government can be even dangerous for the country. The process of decentralization, which became especially strong starting from the last decades of the last century brings not only good to the country. It can also have a potential danger when some duties and responsibilities are neglected by both, local and Federal government.
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