Beyond the Beltway Politics

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Throughout the first part of the semester we have discussed a number of different topics which together are considered to be the essence behind Beyond the Beltway Politics. Perhaps the most important of all the topics which have discussed so far is the relationship between state and local governments. Unfortunately, many people often times overlook the importance of a sound relationship between state and local governments. Instead they focus their attention on the decisions that are made in within the confines of the Beltway which often times prove to be of minimal importance on a local level. In my opinion, I believe that the decisions that occur beyond the confines of the Beltway as well as the day to day relationship between state and local governments are the driving forces behind American politics. That being said, nowhere else is that relationship between state and local governments scrutinized more than in the constant struggle between how much power local governments actually have.

As we learned earlier in the semester there is no mention of local governments anywhere in our Constitution. The lack of clarity in regards to the powers of local governments has resulted in the adoption of two rather different schools of thought. The first of which became known as Dillon’s Rule was created in 1868 by railroad lawyer turned Iowa Supreme Court Justice John F Dillon. Justice Dillon wrote an opinion that within a few decades evolved into a corner stone of American municipal law. On the other hand, in the early 1870’s a Michigan Supreme Court Justice named Thomas Cooley put forth the idea of municipal home rule. Justice Cooley declared state lawmaking bodies to be “captured legislatures” and argued for the rights of municipalities ...

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...ionship. Both Dillon’s Rule and Home Rule provide unique definitions as to how much power local municipalities have and to what extent that they may use those powers. It is my belief that local municipalities should be given the opportunity to govern their area free from restraints by the state. The restraints placed on local municipalities under Dillon’s Rule are in my opinion far too extreme and unfair. Therefore, I wholeheartedly believe that Home Rule is the more sensible approach to dealing with the everyday decisions that local governments face. In recent years a handful of states have strayed away from Dillon’s Rule and have began to incorporate different forms of Home Rule into their governments. One can only hope that these states can act as a role model to others and that over time more states will begin to recognize the benefits of a Home Rule system.

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