Country Roads, Take Me to Home Rule
34 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2023 Last revised: 10 May 2023
Date Written: February 3, 2023
From gun control to bathroom bills, and paper straws to masking requirements, the division of authority between state and local governments has been a major issue in the United States in recent years. The controversies have stoked a number of proposals to endow local governments with more authority, or home rule. This article reviews some of the recent proposals to increase local government autonomy alongside the history of home rule and concludes that present proposals are unrealistic and misconstrue the scope of home rule.
Meanwhile, West Virginia and Nevada have recently instituted home rule reforms that, while lacking national attention, offer the promise of achieving many of the goals of home rule advocates while remaining true to the doctrinal roots of home rule. The West Virginia program is particularly innovative and has empowered local governments in the state. That program allows local governments to request particular authority after engaging in public participation. The local government must justify the request. Local governments in West Virginia have received numerous grants of authority and thrived under this program.
Nevada’s program is generally more traditional and has not yielded significant benefits for municipalities. However, the program is unique in that counties are granted limited home rule authority. Counties have benefited from this grant of limited authority. Scholars and policy makers should examine the programs in West Virginia and Nevada to inform future policy.
Keywords: home rule, local government, West Virginia, Nevada, Dillon's Rule, National League of Cities
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation