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Governing States and Localities

Governing States and Localities

Seventh Edition
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February 2019 | 584 pages | CQ Press
“An easy-to-navigate, comparative book on state and local government. Very student-friendly and well-organized.”
—Jane Bryant, John A. Logan College

The trusted and proven Governing States and Localities guides students through the contentious environment of state and local politics and focuses on the role that economic and budget pressures play in issues facing state and local governments. With their engaging journalistic writing and crisp storytelling, Kevin B. Smith and Alan Greenblatt employ a comparative approach to explain how and why states and localities are both similar and different. 

The Seventh Edition is thoroughly updated to account for such major developments as state versus federal conflicts over immigration reform, school shootings, and gun control; the impact of the Donald Trump presidency on intergovernmental relations and issues of central interest to states and localities; and the lingering effects of the Great Recession.

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Map of the United States
Tables, Figures, and Maps
About the Authors
Chapter 1. Introduction to State and Local Government: They Tax Dogs in West Virginia, Don’t They?
The Impact of State and Local Politics on Daily Life  
The Comparative Method in Practice: Yes, They Really Do Tax Dogs in West Virginia  
Recognizing the Stakes  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 2. Federalism: The Power Plan
Systems of Power  
Why Federalism? The Origins of the Federal System in the United States  
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Federalism  
The Constitutional Basis of Federalism  
The Development of Federalism  
The Supreme Court: The Umpire of Federalism  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 3. Constitutions: Operating Instructions
What State Constitutions Do: It’s Probably Different from What You Think  
The Evolution of State Constitutions  
The First Generation of State Constitutions  
Formal Constitutional Changes  
Informal Methods for Changing Constitutions  
Why State Constitutions Vary  
How State Constitutions Differ  
Constitutions for Local Government?  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 4. Finance: Filling the Till and Paying the Bills
Show Me the Money: Where State Tax Revenues Come From  
Show Me the Money: Income from Fees, Charges, and Uncle Sam  
Taxing Variations among State and Local Governments  
The Budget Process  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 5. Political Attitudes and Participation: Venting and Voting
Voting Rights Disputes  
What Elections Are Used For  
Public Opinion  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 6. Parties and Interest Groups: Elephants, Donkeys, and Cash Cows
A Primer on Political Parties  
Party Competition: Why Some States Are More Competitive Than Others  
Third Parties and Independents  
Interest Groups and Lobbies  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 7. Legislatures: The Art of Herding Cats
The Job of Legislatures  
Organization and Operation of Legislatures  
State Legislators  
The Citizens’ Whipping Boy: Legislators and Public Opinion  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 8. Governors and Executives: There Is No Such Thing as Absolute Power
The Job of Governor  
The Powers of Governors  
Becoming Governor and Staying Governor  
Other Executive Offices  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 9. Courts: Turning Law into Politics
The Role and Structure of State Courts  
Selecting Judges  
Prosecution and Defense of Cases in State Courts  
How Courts Are Changing  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 10. Bureaucracy: What Nobody Wants but Everybody Needs
What Is Bureaucracy?  
What Does Bureaucracy Do?  
What Is “Enough” Bureaucracy?  
Measuring Bureaucratic Effectiveness: It Does a Better Job Than You Think  
State Bureaucracy: From Patronage to Professionalism  
Politics and the Merit System  
If Not Merit . . . Then What?  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 11. Local Government: Function Follows Form
The Many Faces of Local Government  
The Organization and Responsibilities of Local Governments  
Working within Limits: The Powers and Constraints of Local Government  
Participation in Local Government  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 12. Metropolitics: The Hole Problem of Government
The Missing Level of Government  
Sprawl: How Metropolitan Regions Grow  
The Cons of Metropolitan Growth  
Government Reform in Metropolitan Areas  
The Case against Reform: Public Choice and the Tiebout Model  
Rural Metropolitics  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 13. Education: Reading, Writing, and Regulation
Organization and Leadership: Schools Have Many Bosses  
Money Matters  
The Pressure to Perform  
Many Brands on the School Reform Shelf  
Choosing Wisely: Alternatives to Public Schools  
Can’t Tell the Players without a Program: Groups That Influence Public Education  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 14. Crime and Punishment
Private Wrongs, Public Justice  
Principle versus Practice in Common Law  
Prison Nation  
Mass Arrests and Incarceration  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 15. Health and Welfare: State, Heal Thyself!
Government’s Role in Health  
How Government Got into the Health Care Biz  
The Devolution Revolution  
The Rise of the Health Care State  
Issues to Watch  
What Is Good Health Anyway?  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  
Chapter 16. Environment and Climate Change: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
Environmental Conflict between Washington and the States  
The Partisan Divide on Climate  
States Get Serious about the Environment  
Issues to Watch  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  


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  • assignable data exercises in each chapter help students build essential data literacy skills using interactive data visualization tools from SAGE Stats and U.S. Political Stats. Drawing on key data series ranging from demographic patterns to state budget to voting behavior, these exercises offer students a dynamic way to analyze real-world data and think critically about the stories behind the numbers.
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Jane Bryant
“An easy-to-navigate, comparative book on state and local government. Very student-friendly and well-organized.”

Jane Bryant
John A. Logan College

“I am very impressed with the book. This is at least the third edition of the book I have used, and I believe each edition has been an improvement over the previous one.”

Lee Silvi
Lakeland Community College

“This well written book offers a comprehensive approach to the study of sub-national government engaging students with current examples regarding salient policy areas. It effectively guides students with preview objectives about the content in each chapter and briefly reviews this material at the end of each chapter. The book also offers overviews of the critical research that is currently taking place in the field of sub-national politics and provides resourceful links to information that will enhance the student’s knowledge of the various areas of governing structures as well as policy areas.”

Pamela M. Schaal
Ball State University

Useful, well-written, book that provides up-to-date information for students on a broad range of issues in the states.

Dr Brian Hanson
History/Politics/Geography, Wayne State College
November 30, 2018
Key features


All chapters have been revised substantially, with the content updated throughout to reflect the latest issues, trends, and political changes, including the following:

  • Analysis of the results of the most recent legislative and gubernatorial elections.
  • Discussion of the most important state supreme court decisions and constitutional debates.
  • The growing impact of political polarization at the state and even local levels, and the implications of the nationalization of party politics for sub-national governance.
  • The impact of the Donald Trump presidency on inter-governmental relations and issues of central interest to states and localities.
  • In-depth examination of recent events and issues that have had impacts on (and in some cases transformed) states and localities, such as the federal-state tugs of war over immigration reform, school shootings and gun control, and the impact of tax cuts on public services and economic performance.
  • Updates to “The Latest Research” sections at the ends of all chapters, where recent scholarship is put into the context of what students have just read.



  • “A Difference That Makes a Difference” boxes provide clear examples of how variations among states and localities can be used to explain a wide range of political and policy phenomena. These pieces detail the ways the institutions, regulations, political culture, demographics, and other factors of a particular state shape its constitution, the way its political parties function, how its citizens tend to vote, how it allocates its financial resources, and why its courts are structured the way they are, to name a few.
  • “Local Focus” boxes spotlight the ways localities function independently of the states and show how they are both constrained and empowered by intergovernmental ties. From battles to wrest control of their budgets from the state to constitutional restrictions on how they can tax and spend, the topics addressed in these boxes showcase the rich variety represented in these nearly 87,000 substate entities.
  • “Policy in Practice” boxes demonstrate how different states and localities have interpreted and implemented the legislation handed down from higher levels of government, and the consequences of these decisions. The impact of declining agency fees on public unions, the difficulties and implications of city-county mergers, and the policy implications of the power imbalance between states and localities are just some of the issues addressed.
  • “States Under Stress” boxes demonstrate how states deal with challenges such as the long-lingering effects of the Great Recession and the impact of natural disasters. 
  • “Top Ten Takeaways” reinforces key themes and ideas. Each chapter also includes a set of highlighted key concepts. These terms are defined near the places where they are introduced in the text and are compiled into a list at the end of each chapter, with corresponding page numbers. A comprehensive glossary of key terms precedes the book’s index.
  • SAGE edge provides students helpful tools, including eFlashcards, practice quizzes, and more, in one easy-to-use online environment. 

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