Kris Seago
Government/Political Science
Material Type:
Full Course
Academic Lower Division
Austin Community College
  • ACC Liberal Arts
    Creative Commons Attribution
    Media Formats:

    Texas State and Local Politics


    Texas State and Local Politics

    Learning Objectives

    By the end of this section, you will be able to:

    • Describe how state and local political systems in Texas relate to the federal government


    This section discusses how state and local political systems in Texas interact with the federal government.

    How Do State and Local Political Systems Relate to the Federal Government?

    Figure 2.12 This print shows the outline of 34 states and 9 territories, a Civil War battle scene, and Liberty holding U.S. flag and sword riding on the back of an eagle, Lincoln and his cabinet (the secretaries linked to images of the Army, Navy, Treasury, Interior, P.O. Dept., and State Department) representing the "Executive" branch, the Senate and the House of Representatives representing the "Legislative" branch, and the Supreme Court representing the "Judicial" branch of the federal government. Also, cameo portraits of "The seven builders and leading spirits of the revolution." Image Credit: Fallschirmjäger Public Domain

    As you probably have learned by now, the United States operates under a federal system of government. That means there is a national government that works along with the 50 states governments in successfully managing the nation as a whole and in parts. This relationship between the national government and the states was set up in the U.S. Constitution without specifically mentioning the word federalism.

    Furthermore, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution tells us that the national government is supreme over the states. This simply means that the national government will ultimately have the final say in matters of conflict between the states and between the states and the national government.

    Article IV tells us that there will be comity among the states. This means that the states have to get along with each other by respecting their laws and people. In Constitutional law, the Comity Clause refers to Article IV, § 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution (also known as the Privileges and Immunities Clause), which ensures that “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”

    The result of all of this is that the state governments and the national government are all going to get along. That national government will take care of the affairs of the nation as a whole according to the powers set out in Article 1, Section 8, and the states are going to take care of their affairs as understood by the Tenth Amendment.

    Article IV of the Constitution

    The question now concerns local governments. Since the U.S. Constitution is silent on local government, it is understood that states will have power over local governments. This arrangement is referred to as a unitary government. In other words, the state government has the central authority and power over all local governments within the state even though local governments may have some degree of autonomy. For example, a city can make its own laws and enforce them as long as they do not violate the state constitution. In Texas, there are cities, counties, and special districts. You will learn more about these in another chapter. The key thing to remember here is that we don't exist in a vacuum. In other words, the policies of the national government regarding trade can impact states, and the policies of states can impact cities. Since this nation of ours is designed as a system, all of the parts have to work together. Often times that does not happen.

    The positive and negative actions of the national government tend to roll downhill and take the states and local governments with them. For example, proponents for enforcement of federal immigration laws argue that lack of enforcement creates 1) problems for states, which then have to provide social welfare services to illegal immigrants, and 2) problems for local governments, who have to deal with crime and education.

    Each level or layer of government has its own constituencies. This means that the Houston has residents that are most concerned with what goes on in Houston; however, they are not at all concerned about what goes on in Dallas. City officials of each community must respond to the needs of their constituents. Residents of Texas probably don't care much what people do or think in Maine. Therefore, the elected officials in Texas must consider the needs of residents of Texas. A member of Congress should be concerned with the affairs of their state and district; however, districts might cut through multiple local governments and not all people in the state see the needs of the state the same way. As a result, members of Congress may have to think about what is good for the nation as a whole rather than its parts. The product of all of these elected officials responding to the needs of their respective constituencies produces the policies we see today. That is one of the reasons there is so much political conflict. The good news is that compromise often comes from the conflict. That means we don't have to go to war over our differences and we can debate them in a public forum. The best ideas can sometimes win out over bad ideas. Regular elections determine which ideas will get implemented.

    References and Further Reading

    Cornell Law School: Legal Information Institute. ComityAccessed August 25, 2019.

    Licenses and Attributions


    Revision and Adaptation: Authored by: John Osterman. License: CC BY: Attribution