Home rule in the United States

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In the United States, home rule refers to the authority of a constituent part of a U.S. state to exercise powers of governance delegated to it by its state government. In some states, known as home rule states, the state's constitution grants 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.

Forty of the fifty states apply some form of the principle known as Dillon's Rule, which says that local governments may only exercise powers that the state expressly grants to them, to determine the bounds of a municipal government's legal authority.[1] The National League of Cities identifies 31 Dillon's Rule states, 10 home rule states, 8 states that apply Dillon's Rule only to certain municipalities, and one state (Florida) that applies home rule to everything except taxation.[2] Each state defines for itself what powers it will grant to local governments. Within the local sphere, there are four categories in which the state allows discretionary authority:[2]

  • Structural – power to choose the form of government, charter and enact charter revisions,
  • Functional – power to exercise local self government in a broad or limited manner,
  • Fiscal – authority to determine revenue sources, set tax rates, borrow funds and other related financial activities,
  • Personnel – authority to set employment rules, remuneration rates, employment conditions and collective bargaining.

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.[3] 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 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[4] Yes
Delaware No Yes
Florida Yes No Home rule specifically granted in Section 166.021(1) of Florida Statutes.
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 Limited 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 Home rule applies to all cities, some villages, and two counties.
Minnesota Yes Yes
Mississippi No Yes
Missouri Yes Yes
Montana Yes No
Nebraska No Yes
Nevada No[5] Yes Home rule legislation SB29 passed and gave more power to County Commissioners; the law took effect July 2015. However, local government including general improvement districts, special districts, fire districts, and school districts were not affected by this change.[5]
New Hampshire No Yes
New Jersey Yes No
New Mexico Yes Yes Dillon's Rule applies to municipalities not individually granted home rule.[6]
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.[7] Otherwise, cities with populations of 5,000 or less are governed by general law only.[8] School districts are generally governed by general law; a district may adopt a home rule charter,[9] but no district has chosen to do so.[10] Counties and "special districts" (other special-purpose governmental entities besides cities and school districts) are governed solely by general law and prohibited from adopting home rule.
Utah Limited No
Vermont No Yes
Virginia No Yes [11]
Washington Yes Yes
West Virginia Yes[12] No Dillon's Rule was effectively abolished in the 1969 Municipal Code, §7, Article 1. Home rule was introduced in a pilot program in 2007 and made permanent in 2019.
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 2016-09-05.
  2. ^ a b "Local Government Authority". National League of Cities. Archived from the original on August 4, 2016. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
  3. ^ Adam Coester (January 2004). "Dillon's Rule or Not?" (PDF). National Association of Counties. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-10-10. Retrieved 2010-09-07.
  4. ^ "The Connecticut Constitution". Connecticut State Library. April 2011. Archived from the original on 2009-03-23. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
  5. ^ a b http://ag.nv.gov/uploadedFiles/agnvgov/Content/Publications/2016-08-24_AGO_2016-07.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  6. ^ Lang, Diane (December 1991). "DILLON'S RULE...AND THE BIRTH OF HOME RULE" (PDF). New Mexico Municipal League. Retrieved November 16, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/CN/htm/CN.11.htm#11.5 Texas Constitution, Article XI, Section 5.
  8. ^ http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/CN/htm/CN.11.htm#11.4 Texas Constitution, Article XI, Section 4.
  9. ^ http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.12.htm#B Texas Education Code, Chapter 12, Subchapter B.
  10. ^ http://www.texaspolicy.com/sites/default/files/documents/2012-06-RR04-ImprovingEfficiencyLocalControlTexasEducationHomeRuleDistricts-CEP-JamesGolsanBillPeacock.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  11. ^ "Local Government Autonomy and the Dillon Rule in Virginia". Retrieved 2020-05-12.
  12. ^ "The West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Program". West Virginia Department of Revenue. 2021. Retrieved 2021-12-30.