Explaining Federal, State and Local Government System of Federalism
We all benefit from the services of government every day.
Each layer of government – federal, state and local – provides a portion of the fabric of our services and safety nets for the public.
Each of these layers forms part of the system of government in the United States known as “federalism” which a system of shared, distributed power between federal, state and local government is.
Every form of government in the United States has its own separation of powers and checks and balances to minimize corruption, waste, fraud and abuse.
Local government is the form of government which is closest to the people and with which people come into contact most frequently.
While the federalist system provides that each of the 50 states has its own constitution, all provisions of state constitutions must comply with the U.S. Constitution.
As of 2012, there are more than 30,000 municipal governments and 3,000 counties in the United States. In addition, there are nearly 50,000 school and special districts in the U.S.
These districts also provide functions in local government outside county or municipal boundaries.
The matrix below illustrates some of the differences in the distributed power between the federal, state and local governments in the United States:
The Responsibility of the Federal Government
A federal system of government is one that divides the powers of government between the national (federal) government and state and local governments.
The Constitution of the United States established the federal system, also known as federalism. Under federalism, each level of government has sovereignty in some areas and shares powers in other areas.
For example, both the federal and state governments have the power to tax. Only the federal government can declare war.
1. Exclusive Powers of the Federal Government
1. Print money (bills and coins)
2. Declare war
3. Establish an army and Navy
4. Enter into treaties with foreign governments
5. Regulate commerce between states and international trade
6. Establish post offices and issue postage
7. Make laws necessary to enforce the Constitution
2. Exclusive Powers of State Governments
1. Establish local Governments
2. Issue licenses (driver’s, marriage, etc.)
3. Regulate intrastate Commerce
4. Conduct elections
5. Ratify amendments to the U.S. Constitution
6. Provide for public health and public safety
7. Exercise powers neither delegated to the national government or prohibited from the states by the U.S.
8. Establish a State Constitution (e.g., set legal drinking and smoking ages)
3. Powers Shared by the Federal and State Governments
1. Establish courts
2. Create and collect taxes
3. Build highways
4. Borrow money
5. Make and enforce laws
6. Charter banks and Corporations
7. Spend money for the betterment of the general welfare of residents
4. Services Typically Provided by Local Government
4. Human Services
5. Public Works (construction and maintenance of all county owned or operated assets, and services like sewers, solid waste and storm water management)
6. Urban Planning/Zoning
7. Economic Development
8. Parks and Recreation