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State and Local Governments


The fifty states are quite different in size, population, climate, economy, history, and interests. The fifty state governments often differ from one another too. Because they often approach political, social, or economic questions differently, the states have been called "laboratories of democracy". However, they share certain basic structures.

The individual states all have republican forms of government with a senate and a house. All have executive branches headed by state governors and independent court systems. Each state also has its own constitution. But all must respect the federal laws and not make laws that contradict those of the other states. Likewise, cities and local authorities must make their laws and regulations so that they fit their own state's constitution.

The Constitution limits the federal government to specific powers, but modern judicial interpretations of the Constitution have expanded federal responsibilities. There has always been a battle between federal and slate's rights. The traditional American district of a too powerful central government has kept the battle going over the years. The states and local communities in the US have rights that in other countries generally belong to the central government.


Local governments are different from state and federal governments because they do not have constitutions. Local governments receive a charter (a plan of government) from the state government. There are different types of local governments: city, county, town and village. The local charter tells us about the organization of the government.

One of the most important functions or duties of local government is the provision of public schools. People often want to take part in making decisions about the schools because they want their children to get a good education. There are special school boards where parents are the members. The school board makes decisions about teacher's salaries, the curriculum and other administrative aspects. They give their opinions about what needs to be done at school.

Local governments have a court system which considers local problems, such as traffic laws and small disputes. Sometimes cases maybe appealed to the state courts. Judges in local courts are sometimes called justices of peace or judge and magistrate. Local courts usually specialize in one area of law, for example, family law, to be sure that a judge is very competent on the subject. Local courts provide efficient legal service.


1. Translate the sentences. Mark them True or False. Find the information in the text to prove your answer.

1. State governments have nothing in common ().

2. All states have a Senate and a House of Commons.

3. State laws mustnt contradict federal laws.

4. Local laws and regulations dont have to fit a states constitution.

5. Federal and state rights are the same thing.

6. State and local governments are alike.

7. The state government gives a charter to the local government.

8. The local charter is a document about public schools.

9. School boards discuss duties of local governments.

10. State courts consider small disputes and traffic law problems.

11. State courts usually deal with one area of law.


2. Answer the questions in writing.

1. Why have the states been called laboratories of democracy?

2. What basic structures do state governments share?

3. All must respect the federal laws. What does it mean?

4. What is the role of modern judicial interpretations?

5. Do the rights of local communities differ in the USA and other countries?

6. What are the types of local governments?

7. Which is one of the most important functions of local governments?

8. Why do people want to take part in making decisions about schools?

9. What does a court system of local government do?

10. Who works in local courts?

11. Why do local courts specialize in one area?



The Democratic Party is the oldest party in the United States. In 1829, Andrew Jackson became the first Democratic President. Since that time, the issues of the nation and the ideas of the party have changed. Both the major parties have liberal and conservative members but in general people consider the Democrats today more liberal than the Republicans. Democrats often want the government to establish social programs for people in need, such as the poor, the unemployed, and the elderly. They usually say they believe in equal rights (or women and minorities and they oppose nuclear weapon and too much military spending. The symbol of the Democratic Party is the donkey.


The Republican Party, sometimes called the G.O.P, (the Grand Old Party), began in 1854 over the issue of slavery. Republicans oppose slavery. The first Republican candidate to become President was Abraham Lincoln. After the Civil War, Republicans got interested in farm, land, and business issues. In general, Republicans vote more conservatively than Democrats. They want government to support big business but not to control the lives of citizens. They often oppose government spending for social programs but support military spending. The party symbol is the elephant.


Vocabulary Notes

nuclear weapon



Fill in the chart.

The Democratic Party The Republican Party


1. It is the oldest political party in the United States.

2. It is sometimes called the G.O.P.

3. Its first President was Abraham Lincoln.

4. Its first President was Andrew Jackson.

5. It is generally more liberal than the other party.

6. Its members usually prefer to spend tax money for military purposes rather than for social programs.

7. Its members do not want the government to control the lives of individuals.

8. The party symbol is the donkey.



Political Parties

The U.S. Constitution does not talk about political parties, but they began during George Washington's term of office. On one side were the Federalists. They wanted a strong federal government. On the other side, the Democratic-Republicans wanted to limit the power of the national government. Their leader was Thomas Jefferson, and their group later became the Democratic Party.

Some of the early political parties, such as the Federalists and the Whigs, no longer exist. Since 1854, the two major parties have been the Democrats and the Republicans. Smaller parties have lasted for only a short time. "Third parties" have won in local elections, but their candidates have never won a Presidential election.

Many people say that there is not much difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties. "Liberal" politicians usually favor reform (change) and progress. "Conservative" politicians usually oppose change. But both liberal and conservative members belong to the two major political parties, and their ideas often change with the times and the issues.


Date: 2016-03-03; view: 3027

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