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Governing States and Localities

Governing States and Localities

Sixth Edition
Additional resources:

December 2016 | 632 pages | CQ Press
The partisan and ideological polarization associated with federal government plagues states and localities too, bringing with it significant implications for public policy and intergovernmental relations. The trusted and proven Governing States and Localities guides students through this complex relationship and continues its focus on the role that economic and budget pressures play on issues facing state and local governments. With their engaging journalistic writing and crisp storytelling, the authors employ a comparative approach to explain how and why states and localities are both similar and different in institutional structure, culture, history, economy, geography, and demographics. A great blend of high-quality academic analysis and the latest scholarship, the Sixth Edition is thoroughly updated to account for major developments such as state vs. federal conflicts over immigration reform, gun control, and voter rights; health and education reforms aimed at improving the effectiveness of state and local government service delivery; 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
Mass Arrests and Incarceration  
Private Wrongs, Public Justice  
Principle Versus Practice in Common Law  
Prison Nation  
Issues to Watch  
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
States Get Serious About the Environment  
Issues to Watch  
Going Green  
Top Ten Takeaways  
Key Concepts  
Suggested Websites  


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  • All tables and figures from the textbook


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  • Chapter summaries with learning objectives that reinforce the most important material
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  •  Video resources that bring concepts to life, are tied to learning objectives, and are curated and produced exclusively for this text
  • Exclusive access to influential SAGE journal and reference content that ties important research and scholarship to chapter concepts to strengthen learning
  • SAGE State Stats Guide provides information on how to use the SAGE State Stats database for the exercises in the book and on the student study site

Governing States and Localities is an excellent, full-coverage textbook that successfully highlights the variation of states across time and space. The authors provide many interesting and current real-life examples to highlight the relevancy of the material. The text has a strong analytical and empirical focus, while remaining accessible and engaging.”

Andrea McAtee
University of South Carolina

“This is the best book I have encountered on state and local government. Smith and Greenblatt combine a wealth of information on states and localities in a variety of different ways, including the presentation of engaging vignettes, illuminating statistical charts, and the latest research on major topics in the field. At the same time, they build students’ skills so that they can consider the information from a comparative perspective. What more can you ask for?”

Douglas Kuberski
Florida State College at Jacksonville

Governing States and Localities is the best state and local textbook available. It is flexible and adaptable to suit a variety of instructor strengths. Student responses to the book have always been very positive. The comparative approach comes across vividly through analytical presentation and engaging vignettes, and the content is well-written and visually inviting.”

Scott Moore
Colorado State University

Governing States and Localities is engaging and informative. The authors balance different ideological perspectives in this solid introduction to state and local government. This book will always serve as a good resource for future research to any student who holds on to it.”

Michael Bobic
Alderson Broaddus University
Key features
  • New “Top Ten Takeaways” feature reinforces the key elements in each chapter.
  • Updated to reflect the most recent elections, Supreme Court decisions, and much more.
  • Latest research section updated in each chapter to reflect newest academic studies.
  • New boxed features throughout.
  • Crisp storytelling and engaging journalistic writing make this a text students will actually want to read.
  • Chapter objectives identify key takeaways for close, focused reading.
  • SAGE State Stats online interactive data exercises challenge students to apply the comparative method, covering such areas as health care, crime, and education, with intuitive mapping and data visualization tools.
  • A Difference that Makes a Difference boxes provide clear examples of how variation among states and localities can be used to explain a wide range of political and policy phenomena.
  • Local Focus boxes spotlight how localities function independently of states, yet are both constrained and empowered by intergovernmental ties.
  • Policy in Practice boxes demonstrate how different states and localities interpret and implement legislation. 
  • States under Stress boxes underscore how budgetary constraints reshape how state and local governments operate.
  • The Latest Research feature highlights recent scholarship related to each chapter’s discussion, providing students with a broader social science understanding of the similarities and differences across states and localities.
  • Nearly thirty full-color 50-state maps provide an intuitively easy way for students to grasp the differences among states and localities. 
  • Chapter-opening questions prompt students to look systematically for answers using the comparative method. 
  • Chapter-opening vignettes grab students’ interest by relating a compelling story that segues naturally into the broader themes of the chapter.
  • marginal glossary defines key concepts as they are introduced.
  • New Top Ten Takeaways at the end of each chapter reinforce the most important points for students to study and remember. 

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 4

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