Policy making can be defined as the processes through which authorities determine the provision of services to the citizenry of their jurisdiction. In this case, the local and state governments are the authorities in question making provisions for the rendering of basic services to the people within their jurisdiction. Despite the limited application of legislative duties in the state and local governments, there is a significant amount of related duties that these governments will undertake in order to ensure the smooth running of services at their level. For example, the provision of services such as healthcare, education, garbage collection, security and emergency services are some of the basic services that these governments are tasked with providing to the people. Therefore, the policy making process becomes a consideration of the cultural needs of the people and a response to these needs in the most effective ways. This part will look at some of the reasons why policy making is difficult.
One of the major challenges to policy making at the local and state governments are the calls for higher efficiency among government agencies. As a result, there has been continuous budget cutting that would improve overall efficiency of the governments. The aim of cost-cutting schemes is to give the best quality at the minimum possible cost to the citizen since such projects directly depend on the citizenry for finance. Therefore, it is imperative that the cost to the citizen is minimized, leading to a continuous cost-cutting program that has severely affected the implementation of new policies most of which require some input capital before the long-term goals are realized. With this in mind, state and local governments are severely limited in their application of innovative solutions to the citizens.
Alongside the issue of financing the changes, there has been quick and evolutionary technology that has characterized todays world. Things are changing quite rapidly in the field of technology. The need to improve infrastructure in the areas of transportation, information technology, water and waste management alongside other areas has brought the prioritization of state and local government needs to the limelight. With reduced funds being channeled to local governments, the only solution to such problems would be to encourage community initiative. This has however, led to fragmentation of certain areas of interest in the course of working on such projects as some neighborhoods will have higher abilities than others (Donovan, Mooney, & Smith, 2012).
In todays world, people will need to be engaged in what they are doing if they are going to participate. In an economic world that needs the attention of the citizens in making life better for themselves, it has become quite difficult to engage the ownership of the citizenry towards projects that the local government is working towards, further leading towards an increasingly challenging task in achieving set goals for policy making. The citizens in the local and state governments are no longer owning the policy-making process as was the case before, with increased levels of participation in other areas. Moreover, local and state governments still face the challenge of meeting the citizenry on social media and internet platforms, which would spur citizen participation in policy-making processes.
Governors as mini-presidents
When we consider the role of the governor at the state level, we can see that the governor plays the chief administrative and executive role within that jurisdiction. The United States presents a geographical boundary of the states that presents each state as an independent institution capable of making its own laws and governing its own affairs. As such, the leader of the state government will effectually be the leader of all the affairs of the particular state. Governorship thus includes the making of major decisions within the state that would be made by the president at the national level.
One of the major duties of the governor, for example, would be assenting to the law making process within the state. As the system of checks and balances apply, the executive have the duty to check on the legislative role of parliament at the state level. This means that the governor will have the role of ensuring that the laws made within the state reflect the values of the people within the state, bearing in mind the different socio-cultural factors of interest. In this sense therefore, the governor will have to represent the interests of the people of that state in various political gatherings and state-wide decisions.
In line with this line of thought, the governor will also act as a mini-president with respect to the political representation of the states interest at the federal level. All the decisions made within the state will be communicated to the governor for representation at the federal government. Moreover, this role is similar to the president in that the president is tasked with representing the people of the United States in international forums and other socio-economic events. The governor is also tasked, within the boundaries of the constitution, to conduct certain socio-economic duties on behalf of the particular state in question. For example, state organized charities will be subject to the jurisdiction of the governors attendance if a political figure should be required to attend.
In addition, the governor will be seen as the top-ranking official in the presiding state. The governor is the host of all foreign dignitaries and officials visiting the state. In most state occasions where there is interaction between dignitaries of other nations or other states, the governor will always be considered the chief authority within the state, capable of performing official state functions even in the absence of the federal presidency. Moreover, governors are the representatives of the people at the state level and will thus be engaged to host the visiting dignitaries as state legislations call for (Megele, 2012).
However, the role of the governors is highlighted as that of mini-presidents because of their limited power in terms of control of overall function in the state. As a part of the confederation, the governors actions are limited by the constitution to preclude what they cannot do. For example, military alliances cannot be entered into by governors of any state with another sovereign state. The state sovereignty of individual states within the confederation has been limited, and this would mean a direct reduction of the powers of the governor with regards to his duties. Therefore, it is entirely true that the governor is a president of sorts, but does not have absolute power over the state as the leader.
Lessons from the State and Local Governments
In the course of learning about state and local governments, some pertinent things have come out to me concerning the nature of the government of the United States. This section will summarize some important lessons from this course.
Some of the most fundamental needs of the citizens are met by the local government. Local and state governments have put in place mechanisms to ensure that peoples daily lives run on smoothly and with minimum interruption through the safe generation of power and the regulation of food products on the market. Moreover, some roles such as waste management are handled by local government, bringing to view the importance of the local government to the daily affairs of the citizens.
When these roles are considered, the ethics of the cost-cutting schemes engaged by the government comes into question. Does the continuous cost-cutting technique used by the government to regulate expenditure affect the effectiveness with which the local governments can administer their duties? It is important to consider the balance between sufficiency of resources for the administration of public services to the citizens and the efficiency requirement that is put on the authorities.
State governments have also been tasked with the consideration of different cultural groups that are present within their jurisdictions. Culture differences are one of the most frequent occurrences in the United States, with a wide range of cultures represented in various local jurisdictions. The role of these governments in the representation of the needs of these cultures is thus fundamental to the proper functioning of the community (Donovan, Mooney, & Smith, 2012).
Moreover, this course has taught me the constitution of federalism and the interaction between different levels of government. The notion of sovereignty will have a different meaning under a federalism approach as opposed to the unitary approach. Different levels of sovereignty exist for the state and local governments, but are limited through the application of laws set. Presiding laws such as the constitution will often delimit the power of the state and local governments. In fact, state and local governments may not exercise more power than is prescribed to them since they are subject to the courts for the review of the legality of their decisions.
Finally, there has been a long decided trend that in the case of any conflicts between the federal and state governments, the former would always win. The choice of federalism was at the core of the confederation of the states. The interests of the country would come before the interests of any one state within the confederation, leading to the federal government winning on any state of conflict of interest. This is important because the objective of maintaining the states in an environment of peace would require that the states have limited power in favor of the federal government for the successful achievement of the goals of economic and political development. The struggle for power between the state and federal government is thus one that has ultimately been decided in favor of the national government for the maintenance of peace and the preservation of the confederation.
Donovan, T., Mooney, C., & Smith, D. (2012). State and Local Politics: Institutions and Reforms. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.
Megele, C. (2012). Local Government in 2020: challenges and opportunities. Retrieved from The Guardian: www.theguardian.com/local-government-network/2012/apr/11/local-government-2020-challenges-opportunities.
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