Measuring local discretionary authority Page: 37
This book is part of the collection entitled: Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations and was provided to Digital Library by the UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.
The following text was automatically extracted from the image on this page using optical character recognition software:
Recodifiction of State Laws
The utilization of discretionary authority by local
governments clearly will be inhibited unless the state
laws pertaining to political subdivisions are recodified
periodically to identify fully the powers preempted
by the state legislature. As pointed out
earlier, requests for special legislation frequently are
made because local government officials are unsure
of the extent of their discretionary authority and
know that special legislation will prevent a legal
challenge of their use of certain powers.
Respondents in only five states reported that all of
their state laws relating to local governments had
been recodified since 1970 to identify clearly preempted
powers. In a sixth state-Minnesota-the
laws were "recodified in 1973, but more in terms of
granting powers not preempting them."
Since 1970, certain state laws pertaining to local
governments have been recodified in Arkansas, California,
Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma,
and Virginia. Currently, the entire Georgia code, and
state statutes relating to political subdivisions in Indiana
and Kentucky, are being recodified.
Desirability of Certain Provisions
Recipients of the questionnaire were requested to
rate 28 constitutional and statutory provisions on
local discretionary authority as "very desirable,"
"desirable," or "undesirable." Ratings were classified
by region of the country, restriction on the
length of the state legislature's session, degree of
state dominance of the state-local fiscal partnership,
nature of the state-local legal relationship, and position
of the respondent. Table 8 classifies each state
by these variables, with the exception of position of
Table 9 contains respondents' perceptions by
region. Striking regional differences are to be noted:
Whereas 55% of the Northeastern respondents rated
a constitutional prohibition of special legislation as
"very desirable," only 32% of the North Central respondents
agreed. More striking is the difference in
views on the desirability of statutory authorization
for local governments to levy a sales tax: only 10% of
those surveyed in the Northeast rated such a provision
as "very desirable," compared to a 570% rating
in the South.
The Imperium in Imperio (enumerated powers or
grant of power over "local affairs") approach to
granting discretionary authority to local governments
is the least popular approach, with the "undesirable"
rating ranging as follows: Northeast (75%), North
Central (68%), South (53%), and West (39%).
The devolution of powers approach received a
"very desirable" rating, ranging from 46% in the
North Central region to 25% in the Northeast. The
"undesirable" rating for this approach -29% (S),
23% (NC), 20% (NE), and 18%0 (W)-may represent
a preference for the Imperium in Imperio approach,
for a statutory grant of discretionary powers to local
governments, or for a combination of the two.
A constitutional grant of discretionary authority
restricted to local governments that have modernized
their structures was rated "undesirable" by 55% of
the Northeast and 52%7o of the North Central regions.
The corresponding rating for the South was 34% and
for the West 31%. However, only 18% of the southern
respondents and 27% of the western respondents
rated such a provision as "very desirable."
Somewhat surprisingly, there is fairly significant
opposition to a constitutional provision prohibiting
the enactment of special legislation, ranging from
18% in the North Central region to 30%o in the
There was very strong opposition to the removal of
constitutional local debt limits (ranging from 85% in
the Northeast to 65% in the North Central region
and the West) and to the removal of constitutional
local tax limits (ranging from 74% in the Northeast
to 44% in the West). At the same time, there was
strong disapproval of constitutional limits on the
property tax: from 80% in the Northeast and West to
64% in the North Central states.
PERCEPTIONS BY POSITION
Table 10 classifies the perceptions of respondents
by position. Governors (71%07) and experts on statelocal
relations (85%70) are in agreement that a constitutional
provision for Imperium in Imperio is "undesirable."
(No Governor rated such a position as
"very desirable" although one expert did assign such
a rating.) By contrast, 44% of the responding attorneys
general and 50% of the county association
representatives rated this provision "very desirable."
The attorneys general may believe that the Imperium
Here’s what’s next.
This book can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page or view the extracted text.
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Book.
United States. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. Measuring local discretionary authority, book, November 1981; Washington, D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1259/m1/49/: accessed February 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.