2 Simple Videos Explain How Government Works

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These two videos teach more about how government works than most schools do! 

Transcript Of The Video

In this video, we are going to discuss state and local governments. Remember that all powers that are not directly given to the federal government are left to the states and the people.

This means that state governments are actually quite powerful. Most students don’t study state and local governments in school, but your local government affects your life directly every day.

It is also much easier to get involved and make a difference at the state and local level than in national politics. This is why it is so important to understand this part of government. State governments are organized in a similar way to the federal government with three branches. State governments are in charge of managing their state.

0:52

Each state has their own constitution. Each state has a governor who runs the executive branch and is directly elected by the people.

1:02

The executive structure is different in every state, but the governor is in charge of leading the state, creating a budget and approving or vetoing state laws.

The executive branch is in charge of several departments that run services in the state. Some of the people who run those departments are elected and some are appointed by the governor. Some examples include the Department of Motor Vehicles, education, taxes, health and state parks.

Each state has a state legislature with elected representatives.

Almost all state legislatures are similar to the US Congress with two chambers of elected legislators. The state legislature passes state laws approves the state budget and votes on state taxes.

Like the federal level, a state smaller upper house is often called the Senate and the larger Lower House is called the House of Representatives or the assembly.

1:59

Unlike Congress, many states have the ability for the citizens to bypass the state legislature. citizens can start initiatives which are proposals for the ballot.

They can also vote on proposed legislation, which is called a referendum. citizens can also recall elected officials and many states or vote them out of office. There is also a judicial branch in each state. Each state has its own Supreme Court and lower courts.

2:28

Judges in the state court system can be elected or appointed. Most legal disputes are handled within the state court system.

2:37

And a few cases decisions from a state supreme court can be appealed to the US Supreme Court. But this is only if there’s a question of conflict with the Constitution.

2:48

Just like the federal government, there’s a system of checks and balances in each state so that no one branch has too much power, and every branch has the ability to have oversight over the other branches.

Now let’s talk about local governments.

Most states have a number of counties that govern parts of the state, but sometimes those districts have a different name, such as boroughs or parishes. county governments usually run elections, provide protection and administer health services. Cities and Towns generally have an elected mayor who is in charge of city services. The mayor creates a city budget based on taxes and government funds, oversees city departments and tries to make sure the city is a good place to live. City Councils with elected representatives also vote on important city issues.

There are also municipal courts. city governments typically deal with local issues such as housing, police and fire protection, parks and recreation and public works such as streets and transportation. Other important parts of local government are run by districts.

You’ve probably heard of the Public School District, which is run by a school board. The people on the school board are typically elected and they negotiate with teachers and school administrators approve school calendars and policies and oversee all the important parts of education for the school district.

As you can see, many of the things that students care about can be addressed through state and local government.

If your sidewalk needs to be repaired, your mayor or town council will want to know if your school needs more courses in computer science. Your local school board can address that.

If your county is experiencing a rising number of Coronavirus cases, your county health department might issue some recommendations. If state parks need improvements, the state government can decide to spend money to make the changes. Thanks for watching.

Transcript Of The Video

0:00

Hey folks and welcome back to Bridgetown abridged, the different levels of local government can be a lot to unpack, there’s a ton of them, they can be very different. And there’s not a lot of people jumping in to help break it all down.

In the United States, there’s over 89,000 local governmental units, which is a nice, small, manageable number. Luckily, they break down into four categories. So let’s give them each a quick rundown.

With a few exceptions, everyone in the United States is represented by a county government.

If you think of local government, kind of like a house, the county is like the property that the house sits on.

It has clear geographical boundaries, those boundaries always touch up against other properties. And regardless of where in that property, someone lives, they’re still responsible for the entire property.

Now, some states are too cool to call them counties.

So in Alaska, they’re called burrows. And in Louisiana, they’re called parishes. 

And some states are too cool to have their counties do anything beyond being used for census data, like in New England, where Connecticut, Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts have eliminated their county governments altogether, mostly in favor of the township model that I’m going to be discussing next. In Alaska. They’re so cool.

But there’s a region called the unorganized borough, which has no county level government and is larger than 162 countries take that every country smaller than Pakistan. Of course, there’s a lot more to unpack there. But luckily, they’ve got a lot of room.

In addition to states neutering their counties, there’s also some cities that have gone all Game of Thrones on their county governments like independent cities, which have broken free from their counties and have no county government and consolidated counties where the county level government has fused with the city government to become a single government which has the powers of both the county and the city under state law. Now, political power at the county varies by an enormous degree, except in those few states with no county governments. Essentially, all counties provide at least Judicial Court systems and law enforcement. I’m sure we’ve all heard reference to county jails and county courts.

Many states give their counties more powers than this, like public utilities, libraries, hospitals, public health services, parks and roads.

For instance, at the other end of the extreme from states with no or limited county governments, there are some more populated counties that can provide things like public housing, zoos, museums, and even food safety regulations. municipalities and townships can be fairly similar, which is why I’m going to talk about them at the same time. They’re also the form of local government that I would bet we’re all the most familiar with.

Since most people live in towns or cities. There are over 35,000 Municipal or township governments in the United States, so they make up between one third and one half of all local governments. If a county is like the property, then they’re like the house on that property.

They usually more complicated and they’re usually built around where the people actually live. The main difference between municipalities and township governments is whether or not they’re focused or on a population center or not.

Municipal governments exist to serve the needs of the people who live in a concentrated area, while townships generally exist to serve a kind of dual purpose similar to that of a county, namely a geographic area rather than a population focused one.

Townships exist in 20 states and can also be referred to just as towns while municipal governments can refer to cities, villages, hamlets boroughs, except in Alaska and towns in 30 states, which I know is super confusing. The roles and responsibilities of municipalities and townships vary so much from state to state that it’s pretty hard to generalize about either of them.

For the most part, though, they mostly control things like zoning, and local agencies, such as police and fire departments and fund themselves primarily through property taxes, which is about as specific as I can get while still being accurate. Here we come to our final and also least defined category, special purpose districts.

Our metaphor about the house breaks down a little bit here, but they’re kind of like the garden or the reading nook in your living room, an area that’s defined because there’s a need for a special purpose, hence the name. There are two types of special purpose districts, school districts and special districts.

Thanks US Census Bureau really doing us a solid their school districts are somewhat self explanatory. These are districts that exist to provide primary and secondary schooling.

In every state except for Virginia, they can levy taxes, and in some states, they’re completely independent from the other forms of government, while in some they’re completely dependent on either county or municipal governments. When it comes to the special districts, we get to the sort of potpourri section, if you will, these governments are all over the place and can vary incredibly in size, function and form. For example, there are cemetery districts, ambulatory districts, port authorities, library districts, and even mosquito control districts.

That’s right, there are formal governments in the US dedicated solely to controlling mosquito populations, just as the founders would have wanted it. Some of them have elected officials and some of them are appointed, some can levy taxes and many camp.

They’re really all over the board. And they can even very heavily in quantity by state, with Alaska having 15 and Illinois having over 3200 of them.

Overall, there are more than 39,000 of these types of districts, meaning that they make up close to half of all local governments so it really pays to know which special districts apply to you.

4:54

Interview there are four forms of local government, municipalities, which are small governments focused on In a population center townships which are similar to municipalities, but focus on a small region, counties, which are to completely divide up the land in each state into governed pieces, and special purpose districts that are made up of school districts and special districts focusing on serving a single purpose to a given region of people. So there you have it.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Bridgetown unabridged. If you did, I’d really appreciate it if you’d like or share the video. If you’d like to see more videos like this, you can hit that subscribe button down there or go to my channel to check out my other videos.

And if there’s a video you’d like to see make in the future, throw a comment down there. I’d love to take suggestions. Thanks and have a great day.

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