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Describe the responsibilities of government at the federal, state, and local levels (e.g., protection of individual rights and the provision of services such as law enforcement and the building and funding of schools).

A. Protection of Individual rights

B. Provision of law enforcement, emergency services (i.e. fire department), funding/building of educational institutions

C. Organizing infrastructure, zoning regulations, water, licensed professional requirements/standards

Focus Question: What are the responsibilities of federal, state and local governments?

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external image Agregateur_Poietique.gifFor more information, go to USG.3.2

Federal Government

Brief synopsis from Helium.Com's US Politics section by Frankie Buda "The American government is a federal one, which means that authority and jurisdiction are divided among national, state, and local governments. This division and decentralization causes the system to be often unwieldy, slow-moving, and redundant. However, the federal system's value lies in the fact that in such a large and diverse nation, local governing bodies can represent this diversity."

Government in America is constructed in such a way that state laws may differ depending on local circumstance consider the speed limits on local roads, which are often different from state to state. Smaller subdivisions are also flexible enough to respond to some unique situation or element of their population. For example, in heavily Amish areas of Pennsylvania, local school districts have allowed the Amish to establish their own elementary schools. Although these institutions are funded solely by private money, unlike other private schools they violate various state laws regarding such things as teacher certification, curriculum, and length of the school year.

State and Local Government

Law enforcement is one of the functions of local governments
Law enforcement is one of the functions of local governments

In 2002 the United States had 50 states, 3,034 counties, and 19,429 municipal and 16,504 township governments (from Helium.Com's US Politics section by Frankie Buda)

Multimedia.pngFollow this link for a clickable map of the United States.

Click here for background information on state and local government in the Untied States.

State and local governments exercise important functions in the United States. They plan and pay for most roads, run public schools, provide water, organize police and fire services, establish zoning regulations, license professions, and arrange elections for their citizens. These are functions that directly affect Americans every day and in every part of their lives.
State and local governments have never been totally separate political entities, because they cooperate in services ranging from welfare to transportation, and because they serve the same residents. Nonetheless, the state has the final decision over local functions. While states are part of the larger entity of a federal system, local governments are creatures of the state. The state government can abolish a local government, merge it with other entities, or give it additional authority. Local authority comes from specific state constitutional provisions or from acts of the state legislatures."


Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky are called Commonwealths.