Home rule in the United States

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In the United States, the legislative authority granted to local governments varies by state. In some states, known as Home Rule States, an amendment to the state constitution grants cities, municipalities, and/or counties the ability to pass laws to govern themselves as they see fit (so long as they obey the state and federal constitutions). In other states, only limited authority has been granted to local governments by passage of statutes in the state legislature. In these states, a city or county must obtain permission from the state legislature if it wishes to pass a law or ordinance which is not specifically permitted under existing state legislation. Most non-home rule states apply the principle known as Dillon's Rule to determine the bounds of a municipal government's legal authority.[1]

Home Rule and Dillon's Rule states[edit]

The following chart indicates which of the 50 U.S. states are home rule states and which states obey the legal principle of Dillon's Rule for determining local government authority. A state in this chart with "Limited" home rule may grant home rule to particular cities and municipalities individually but has no constitutional amendment guaranteeing home rule. A state which is both a home rule state and a Dillon's Rule state applies Dillon's Rule to matters or governmental units not accounted for in the constitutional amendment or statutes which grant home rule. The source for the table is at this reference.[2]

The District of Columbia has a limited form of home rule granted by the Federal Government; see District of Columbia home rule for details.

State Home Rule State? Dillon's Rule State? Comments
Alabama No Yes Dillon's Rule applies only to counties.
Alaska Yes No
Arizona Yes Yes
Arkansas Limited Yes
California Yes Yes Dillon's Rule does not apply to charter cities.
Colorado Yes Yes
Connecticut Yes[3] Yes
Delaware No Yes
Florida Yes Unclear Conflicting statutes address Dillon's Rule.
Georgia Yes Yes Home rule specifically granted in Article IX of Georgia Constitution
Hawaii Yes Yes
Idaho Yes Yes
Illinois Yes Yes Dillon's Rule applies to municipalities not individually granted home rule.
Indiana Limited Yes Dillon's Rule applies only to townships.
Iowa Yes No
Kansas Limited Yes Dillon's Rule does not apply to cities or counties.
Kentucky All cities Yes
Louisiana Yes Yes Dillon's Rule only applies to charter municipalities established before 1974.
Maine Yes Yes
Maryland Yes Yes
Massachusetts Yes No
Michigan Yes Yes
Minnesota Yes Yes
Mississippi No Yes
Missouri Yes Yes
Montana Yes No
Nebraska No Yes
Nevada Yes, home rule legislation passed and took effect July, 2015 No
New Hampshire No Yes
New Jersey Yes No
New Mexico No No
New York Yes Yes
North Carolina Limited Yes
North Dakota Yes Yes
Ohio Yes No
Oklahoma No Yes
Oregon Yes No
Pennsylvania Yes Yes
Rhode Island Yes Yes
South Carolina Limited No
South Dakota Yes Yes
Tennessee Yes Yes Dillon's Rule applies only to non-home rule municipalities.
Texas Limited Yes Cities may adopt home rule once their population exceeds 5,000 and the voters adopt a city charter (the provisions of which cannot be inconsistent with either the Texas Constitution or general law); if the population subsequently falls below 5,000 the charter remains in force and may be amended.[4] Otherwise, cities with populations of 5,000 or less are chartered by general law only.[5] School districts may adopt home rule for school districts,[6] but none have chosen to do so.[7] Counties and "special districts" (other special-purpose governmental entities besides cities and school districts) are prohibited from adopting home rule.
Utah Limited No
Vermont No Yes
Virginia No Yes [8]
Washington Yes Yes
West Virginia No* No Dillon's Rule was effectively abolished in the 1969 Municipal Code, §7, Article 1. *The state has conducted a home rule pilot program which is due to stop by the end of 2017.
Wisconsin Limited Yes
Wyoming No Yes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Diane Lang (December 1991). "Dillon's Rule… and the Rebirth of Home Rule" (PDF). New Mexico Municipal League. Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  2. ^ Adam Coester (January 2004). "Dillon's Rule or Not?" (PDF). National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  3. ^ "The Connecticut Constitution". Connecticut State Library. April 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-06. 
  4. ^ http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/CN/htm/CN.11.htm#11.5 Texas Constitution, Article XI, Section 5.
  5. ^ http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/CN/htm/CN.11.htm#11.4 Texas Constitution, Article XI, Section 4.
  6. ^ http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.12.htm#B Texas Education Code, Chapter 12, Subchapter B.
  7. ^ http://www.texaspolicy.com/sites/default/files/documents/2012-06-RR04-ImprovingEfficiencyLocalControlTexasEducationHomeRuleDistricts-CEP-JamesGolsanBillPeacock.pdf
  8. ^ "Dillon Rule in Virginia". Retrieved 2015-02-05.