Tx Govt Ch 14 Summary

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1

Although local governments are responsible for providing services that are unique to the communities they serve that is, reducing traffic violations, fixing potholes, maintaining parks they must also contend with issues of national importance, such as immigration, homelessness, and homeland security. Municipalities, counties, and special districts provide numerous services that have a direct impact on our daily lives.

Local governments must frequently meet mandates imposed by Congress or the state legislature. Although unfunded mandates are of particular concern to local governments, supporters of mandates contend that they allow governments to address pressing needs in a uniform fashion.

2

The examination of local governments is challenging because they number in the thousands, and they do not receive the media attention of the national and state governments. Municipal and school district elections in Texas are nonpartisan; they generate low levels of public interest and low voter turnout.

The municipal reform movement of the twentieth century had a major effect on Texas cities. Key features of the reform era nonpartisan elections, the council manager form of government, and at large elections are characteristics of many Texas cities. Some cities with large Latino and African American populations have, under court order, replaced at large elections with single member districts, modified election systems, or instituted cumulative voting. In addition to participating in city council, county, and some special district elections, local voters may also influence their communities through initiative, referendum, and recall elections; rollback elections; term limit elections; and economic development sales tax elections.

3

Municipalities with a population greater than 5,000 may adopt home rule, which allows them considerable latitude when it comes to governing. These cities can write their own charters (organic law comparable to a constitution) and ordinances, as long as they do not conflict with state or federal laws or constitutions. Cities that do not meet that population requirement must operate within the structure of a general law charter established by the state.

Texas maintains broad annexation laws that facilitate the jurisdictional expansion of home- rule cities. This policy is subject to criticism by unincorporated areas that are annexed against their will, but recent reforms have facilitated greater planning and quicker service delivery after annexation.

4

Texas county government does not have home rule. Its structure and organization are determined by the Texas Constitution and the state legislature. Texas counties range considerably in terms of population, yet they are quite similar when it comes to structural features, sources of funding, and functions. County law enforcement, financial officers, and clerical officers are independently elected. The spoils system remains a feature of county government, though counties meeting certain population requirements may establish civil service systems.

Although city county consolidation of governments is non-existent in Texas, local governments can establish inter local agreements that promote regional cooperation.

5

Government is largely fragmented at the local level. Although friction between governments is common over policies like annexation, cooperation may also result when local governments agree to share responsibility for certain services. Nevertheless, any significant changes in the structural relationship between cities, counties, and special districts will likely continue to be more incremental than sweeping.

Local governments rely on a variety of revenue sources property and sales taxes, user fees, public debt, and state and federal dollars to provide services.

6

Like state governments, local governments are often subject to comparison on the basis of their structural features. Municipal home rule is a common feature in most states including Texas, which allows its adoption in cities with a population of more than 5,000, contingent on voter approval.

The council manager form of government, nonpartisan elections, and at large elections have been widely adopted by municipalities throughout the nation, including Texas home rule cities.

7

Texas has more counties than any other state. Whereas most states permit some variation of home rule, Texas counties are not authorized by the state to adopt home rule.

Combinations of distinct features, such as election systems that include at large and single member district seats, may also be found. Term limits have not been widely adopted by municipalities nationwide or in Texas.