Nevada Politics & Government: Conservatism in an Open Society

By Don W. Driggs; Leonard E. Goodall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE
Local Governments:
Powers and Politics

Tip O'Neill, the longtime Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives, is perhaps best remembered for his statement that "all politics is local." He never forgot that his main responsibility was to his constituency in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In Nevada, local politics does not receive as much attention as it does in larger states because all politics in the state is "local." The interested citizen has no problem interacting in some way with her or his governor, U.S. senator, legislator, county commissioner, or mayor.

The relationship between a state and its subdivisions is not the same as that between the federal and state governments. The states existed prior to the federal government, which was created by the U.S. Constitution; that document defines the relationship between the two entities. The states retained many of their powers under the Constitution, and the federal government cannot unilaterally abolish states or diminish their powers.

In contrast, local governments within a state—such as counties, cities, and school districts—are creatures of the state and have only those powers that the state has given them. Under its unitary form of government, a state could theoretically provide all government services and activities directly from the state capital and create no local governments. In the real world, such an occurrence is a practical impossibility.


STATE-LOCAL RELATIONS

The Nevada Constitution directs the legislature to "establish a system of county and township government, which shall be uniform throughout the state." 1 The constitution also includes a long list of local government functions and activities about which the legislature is prohibited from passing

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