American State and Local Politics: Directions for the 21st Century

American State and Local Politics: Directions for the 21st Century

American State and Local Politics: Directions for the 21st Century

American State and Local Politics: Directions for the 21st Century

Synopsis

Ronald E. Weber and Paul Brace bring together a distinguished team of scholars of state and local government to provide an array of viewpoints on the impact of the major institutional changes that have been taking place over the past three decades. These experts discuss the current status of state and local government practices and identify some of the challenges facing officials today.

Excerpt

Ronald E. Weber and Paul Brace

Over the past three decades, states and localities in the United States have changed dramatically in function and performance. State and local government power in the U.S. federal system was at a low ebb in the 1960s. Elites as well as average Americans were confident then that most domestic problems required national rather than state or local attention, and the push for uniform solutions had strong momentum. Congress passed many pieces of landmark domestic legislation during the Great Society period (1965-66) of the Johnson administration, including major reforms of welfare, health, and education programs that deeply affected state and local delivery of public services. For example, the Social Security Act was amended to create new categories of cash assistance programs that were to be administered by the states on a matching basis. the Medicaid program, which provided funding to the states to entitle welfare recipients and other poor persons to government-paid medical care, was established to replace the old state-based medical assistance for the poor program. and the national Elementary and Secondary Education Act offered federal government funds to the localities to upgrade educational services to poor children. All of these new programs, while providing new national government funding, also placed significant strings on how the funds could be administered by the states and localities. States lacking in institutional capacity in the bureaucracies that would run these programs were required to undertake broad-scale reforms in order to meet the national government mandates.

Partly as a reaction to the nationalization of domestic policy problems during that period and partly due to internal demands to deal with the challenges of state and local economic development, the states and localities have responded by reforming their governing capabilities on a broad scale during the past three decades. a variety of external and internal forces seeking to make those governments more efficient and better able to deal with the challenges of the latter part of the twentieth century have truly transformed state and local governments into modern institutions capable of dealing routinely with myriad domestic policy problems created by societal tensions and global challenges. the broad purpose of this book is to document and describe those institutional changes as they have occurred over the past three decades, a period of growing emphasis on decentralization . . .

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