Good Example Of The Importance Of Intergovernmental Relationships Between Local, State, And Federal Governments And Elected Officials On Each Level Essay
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As a political formation within certain territorial boundaries with a population, resources, economy, and other components, a country needs a system of coherent and complex organization that would keep all elements running. Such system comes in the shape of government composed of a group of officials overseeing specific tasks, such as the issuance of a national currency, the establishment of defense system, commerce regulation, economic development, urban planning, and the enforcement of initiatives, policies, and bills, to name a few. The American system of government is multi-dimensional, with the federal, state, and local governments being the major levels of government. Each in charge of specific areas of responsibility, the three share some common powers. Legislative and fiscal matters are what usually determine the degree of interaction between various levels. The closer to the top a government level is, the larger the extent of financial and legal autonomy elected officials enjoy. Overall, the USA has a three-level governmental system composed of the federal, state, and local governments, all interacting in matters like the implementation of laws, polices, initiatives and the distribution of allocations among other things.
General Trends in the Relationship between Federal, State, and Local Governments
While to a general observer the mechanism of the American government may appear one-dimensional, in which bills adopted by the Congress go on to be put into force by the president, a closer insight into its structure reveals the complexity of influences and interactions. People possess the ultimate power in the federal republic. They exercises their power by means of regular elections, whereby people elect the President, Congress members, local, and state officials who later make laws, formulate policies, and direct the daily operations of the American government (The US Department of State n.p.). De jure, elected government officials stand proxy for the Americans acting in their best interests. Since all three government levels are the integral parts of the system of government whose levels sometimes performs similar functions, the elected officials inevitably interact building a strong relationship determined by the willingness to implement federal and state initiatives, policies, and programs.
Arnold (5) states that the American Constitution contains general provisions concerning state government, apart from defining the commissions and the structure of the federal government. Each state has a constitution of its own that incorporates provisions for local governments to follow within the state. Cities, towns, counties, school and special-purpose districts all may have their local governments, which allows managing a wide range of matters from transportation networks to natural resources. The American Constitution determines the scope of responsibilities and powers the federal government has at its disposal. The provision of national defense, the regulation of commerce between states, the regulation of naturalization and immigration, the issuance of money, the conclusion of agreements with foreign countries are some of powers defined by the constitution.
Amendments made to the US Constitution to adjust it to changing circumstances cause the federal government to introduce changes. Interacting with all American states, the federal government adopts certain legislative acts and programs that receive federal allocations, yet it is states that administer the products of federal legislative work. State are obliged to abide by the guidelines issued by the federal government using federal funds to deliver services in areas like social welfare, education, homeland security, assisted housing and nutrition, emergency response, and transportation. The mandatory compliance by federal general rules and financial aid empower the federal government to exert influence on the states. On multiple occasions, state governments are legally bound to finance programs if they are to be eligible for federal funds (Arnold 5). As is the case with local governments, the state authorities seem to face a similar challenge. The implementation of initiatives or bills coming from Congress is the determinant of the financial stability of state authorities and the tenacity of their relationship between state and federal governments.
Arnold (5) suggests that the constitution of a state charters a local government. The policies adopted by the state governments cannot be in defiance of the federal law. The same is true of the legal matrix produced by the statutes and constitutions of American states that are obligatory for local governments to follow (Arnold 5). As may be seen in both cases, every top echelon exerts influence on the inferior or preceding level of the general governmental hierarchy. The bottommost layer of the structure enjoys the least degree of legal and financial autonomy. The above-described mechanisms are indicative of the close relationship between all three major levels of the American government.
Exclusivity and joint performance of duties by various governments best reflect the interrelationship between all three levels. Of course, there is a series of powers that rest with separate government levels. Thus, for example, according to Fairfax Country Virginia (1), the federal government is in an exclusive position to print money in the shape of coins and bills, establish navy and army, declare war, and conclude agreements with foreign governments. It is also within the competence of the federal government to create laws requisite for the enforcement of the provisions of the US Constitution and issue postage and establish post offices, regulate international trade and the interstate commerce. Local government also have jurisdiction over particular matters like police, education, human services, fire, urban zoning and planning, recreation and parks, economic development, and public works, inclusive of the erection and maintenance of state-operated or owned services and assets, such as storm water, sewers, and solid waste management. Speaking of joint powers, state and federal governments share duties, such as the creation and collection of taxes, the establishment of courts, money borrowing, highway building, the creation and enforcement of laws, the chartering of corporations and banks, transportation, and the spending of funds on the improvement of the residential welfare. State governments enjoy the exclusive right of establishing local governments (Fairfax Country Virginia 1-2).
A Detailed Insight into the Scope of Interaction between Governments
Berman (19) suggests that local governments in the USA are integrated into a very complex intergovernmental system functioning on two major planes. On a horizontal plane, they cooperate with local government counterparts while, on a vertical place, they cooperate the federal government and state governments, of which both enjoy the advantage of operating from the higher echelons of formal authority. A number of factors like programs, money, the play of interest groups, and political parties are what bind local, state, and federal levels of the government. Interest groups play an essential role of leverage setting in motion policy issues from one level to another. Interestingly, in the US political system, interests groups can always try taking their case to a different government level. Thus, for example, the proposal of raising the rate of minimal salary in the mid-1990s did not find required legislative support in state-level legislatures along with Congress, yet grass-root lobbyist groups did succeed in their initiative at the city level or in local governments. The National Rifle Association had difficulties preventing gun-control action on the local level and in Congress; still, bringing the case to the state-level government proved an effective decision to make (Berman 19-20).
While the examples demonstrate that all three levels of government interact and share a number of functional powers like the abolition or enactment of grass-root initiatives and bills lobbied by interest groups, the federal branch is the senior level of the government system, as are officials working at this level. Berman (20) notes that decisions that federal officials and Congress functionaries make are very important in the intergovernmental system. For example, federal legislators enacted the Telecommunications Act of 1996 designed to simulate competition in the sector of communications. Being obligatory to implement for states officials, the piece of federal legislation improved local governments’ ability of withstanding the competition of private companies in telecommunication service provision, although having a number of adverse revenue-related effects (Berman 20).
According to Berman (20-21), changes in federal policy tend to have a ripple effect on state-local relationships, with local dignitaries receiving greater sovereignty from the states and sometimes becoming more dependent on the states. Preemptive actions made by federal officials can render legal efforts of local officials made in courts and state legislatures disputable. Such is the matrix, wherein local officials function. The taking of private property, control over telecommunication, and the taxation of the Internet are among few examples of such legal efforts. Decisions with regard to mandates, grants-in-aid, policy choices, and preemptions, which boost activity on both local and state levels, whether directly or indirectly, allow the federal government officials to make an impact on local and state relations.
An increase or cutbacks in federal assistance allocated to local governments make them more or less dependent on the state, and the influx and reflux of federal mandates on the states have an impact on the influx and reflux of state mandates on localities, which determines the amount of control exerted by local officials on priorities and budgets. In the first half of the 1990s, local and state governments concerned with crime intensity enhanced the severity of punishment and law enforcement level. In the aftermath, local and state authorities put more people behind the bars meting out severe penalties that led people to serve longer terms. The intensified efforts of fighting crime sent state-local expenditure soaring, which held true for corrections. The increase in spending sparked local-state disputes over which governmental level should bear the brunt of expenses. This is not all there is to examples of a direct impact of the federal government on local-state relationships. The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st century requires states to provide local dignitaries with greater influence on the decision-making process in transportation (Berman 21).
Berman (21) states that both local and state governments have become the tools of the federal government to a varying extent in matters like the implementation of various federal programs. It is worth noting that they have also become the recipients or beneficiaries of federal programs, which makes them willing to support their continued expansion and funding. Local and state functionaries admit that the federal government can turn out to be useful via its regulatory power. To put a simple example, in the course of the early 2000s, the officials were trying to ensure congressional legislation in order to oblige vendors to gather sales taxes on catalog or Internet sales. Although local and state governments have a wide range of common interests towards the federal government, they are said to vie for the influence on federal policy. Local authorities have been looking to develop direct bonds with the federal government so that they will be able to receive aid, which state-level governments are unable to allocate.
The federal government has repeatedly showed the signs of willingness to free local governments from the states in attempts to avoid state governments and directly tackle issues experienced by local functionaries and enable these to implement policies resolving the issues. More than once, the federal government has made local governments free from control exerted by state authorities by bestowing upon the local governments the authority of doing things in conflict with the state law. For instance, a federal court authorized the city of Tacoma to erect a dam under a license issued by the Federal Power Commission in spite of the fact that doing so per was in contravention of the state law. While the act was the defiance of the state government’s will, the preemption of the state law by the federal license gave the green light to the construction project. To quote a more recent example of the elimination of state government mediation, a number of courts ruled that the Federal Telecommunications Act forbids state authorities to deny local administrations the right to communication service provision. As with Congress and federal agencies, federal courts have proved able to authorize local governments, thereby liberating them from excessive state control (Berman 22).
Approaching the federal government on funds reduces the dependence of local governments on state authorities, albeit localities become more dependent on the federal governments. If that is the case, gains like a larger degree of self-sufficiency and autonomy are doubtful (Berman 22). The federal government officials avail themselves of the fiscal leverage to influence the local governments’ decisions of implementing federal initiatives. It is on the dependence of localities on the federal funds that the federal government often relies. According to Arnold (5), in the 1970s, the federal government came up with the initiative of reducing highway speed limits, which would allow lowering energy consumption. Instead of passing the legislation to decrease speed restrictions, the federal government issued a warning threatening with withholding money allocated for road projects from states failing to reduce speed limits locally (Arnold 5). Obviously, local authorities are in no position to turn down the federal initiative, which will made them lower the restrictions for fear of losing the source of financial support they often cannot access at the state level. The relationship between local and the federal governments is so important that it seems to be one of the major sources of budgetary replenishment for localities.
Despite fallacious visible simplicity, the US government is a complex structure composed of elected officials in charge of specific tasks at various government levels. Being in close cooperation with all American states, the federal government passes certain legislative acts and programs that receive federal funds. States implement the legal initiates put forward by the federal government. Complying with the guidelines of the federal authorities, state governments use their funds to provide services in areas like social welfare, education, homeland security, assisted housing and nutrition, emergency response, and transportation. State governments often have the legal duty of financing programs if they are willing to retain the legitimacy of claiming for federal funds.
The federal government often eliminates the bureaucratic mediation of state governments, making money appropriation a more direct procedure as well as lifting certain restrictions imposed by state-level governmental authorities. However, the minimization of financial dependence of local governments on their state counterparts increases their dependence on the federal government. In any case, the federal authorities prove more efficient in the allocation of fund the state-level functionaries do not have. As recipients of allocations required for the implementation of local initiatives, local-level officials welcome any benefactor or the source of funds. Overall, federal, state, and local governments and elected officials cooperate on various initiatives to cover multiple areas of responsibility, with hierarchy, constitution-defined legal duties and funding determining the level of relationship.
Arnold, Paul, A. About America. How the United States Is Governed. Virginia: Braddock Communications, Inc. 2004. Web. 7 Feb. 2015.
Berman, David, R. Local Government and the States: Autonomy, Politics, and Policy. New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc. 2003. Web. 7 Feb. 2015.
Fairfax Country Virginia. “Explaining Federal, State, and Local Government Responsibilities in Virginia.” Fairfaxcounty.gov. n.d. n.p. Web. 7 Feb. 2015.
The US Department of State. “Overview of National, State, and Local Governments in the United States.” The Embassy of the United States of America. 8 June 2008. n.p. Web. 7 Feb. 2015.
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