The Relationship Between Local, State, and National Government

Learning Objectives

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

  • Explain the relationship between the local government, state government, and national government


This section explores the interrelationship between local, state, and national government. 

The Relationship Between Local, State, and National Government

Picture of Kaufman Memorial
Figure 6.2 County, state, and U.S. flags at Kaufman County Veterans' Memorial Park.
Image Credit: pxhere License: CC0

Whereas the federal government and state governments share power in countless ways, a local government must be granted power by the state. The way power is granted and limited is different for different types of local government.

Counties are general-law forms of government, created specifically by the state. Geographically, counties are like puzzle pieces - every square inch of Texas is in one of the state's 254 counties. Counties are given specific powers by the state under the Constitution and state statutes and have virtually no flexibility.

Cities, on the other hand, are created by their citizens, who apply for a charter to create one. Most of Texas does not lie within the city limits of any city. While small cities operate much like counties, with specific powers granted and limited by the state, larger "home rule" cities have tremendous flexibility. Cities like Austin have passed ordinances expanding the concept of a municipal government into social justice and environmental regulation areas that have prompted the state legislature to begin limiting the powers of home rule cities.

"Preemption" laws - state laws limiting the powers of local governments - are controversial. Conservatives comprise the majority of both chambers of the state legislature and historically favor the concept of local control. As voters in many urban areas trend more progressive, favoring social justice and environmental regulations beyond those favored by state lawmakers, the concept of local control begins to clash with the legislature's basic ideological standards.

Cities sometimes derive power and funding directly from the federal government. Most large Texas cities have been granted "substantial equivalency" by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, meaning the city's Fair Housing ordinance is basically the same as the national law. Those cities are empowered to an extent to enforce the Federal Fair Housing Act on the federal government's behalf.

Licenses and Attributions


Revision and Adaptation. Authored by: Kris S. Seago. License: CC BY: Attribution