Home rule in the United States

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Home Rule in the United States.
  Yes Home Rule, No Dillon's Rule
  Yes Home Rule, Yes Dillon's Rule
  Limited Home Rule, No Dillon's Rule
  Limited Home Rule, Yes Dillon's Rule
  No Home Rule, Yes Dillon's Rule

Home Rule in the United States relates to the authority of a constituent part of a U.S. state to exercise powers of governance; i.e.: whether such powers must be specifically delegated to it by the state (typically by legislative action) or are generally implicitly allowed unless specifically denied by state-level action.

In some states, known as home rule states, the state's constitution grants municipalities and/or counties the ability to pass various types of laws to govern themselves (so long as the laws do not conflict with 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 exercise only powers that the state specifically 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 may allow 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 provision 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 Limited Yes Limited home rule granted to cities and towns in Article XII, Sections 220-28 of the Alabama constitution. Counties are not delegated even a general grant of power under Dillon's Rule and must seek "local legislation" from the state legislature.[4]
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[5] 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 local government units not specifically 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 Limited Yes The Nebraska Constitution at Article XI, Section 2, authorizes cities with a population of more than 5,000 inhabitants to form a government under Home Rule.  This constitutional provision is considered self-executing and does not require additional action by the Legislature. A city organizing under Home Rule adopts a Home Rule Charter, which must be consistent with and is subject to the Constitution and laws of Nebraska.

Lincoln and Omaha are Nebraska’s only current Home Rule cities.[6] Grand Island adopted a Home Rule charter in 1928; it was repealed by the voters on April 2, 1963. The City Council subsequently repealed the charter on April 17, 1963, with Ordinance 3990.

Nevada No[7] Yes Home rule legislation SB29 took effect July 2015, and gave more power to county commissioners. However, local government including general improvement districts, special districts, fire districts, and school districts were not affected by this change.[7]
New Hampshire No Yes
New Jersey Yes No
New Mexico Yes Yes Dillon's Rule applies to municipalities not individually granted home rule.[1]
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 "the general laws of the state." If the population subsequently falls below 5,000, the charter remains in force and may be amended.[8] Otherwise, cities with populations of 5,000 or less are governed by the general laws only.[9] School districts are generally governed by the general laws; a district may adopt a home rule charter,[10] but no district has chosen to do so.[citation needed] Counties and "special districts" (other special-purpose governmental entities besides cities and school districts) are governed solely by the general laws 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. ^ a b Lang, Diane (December 1991). "DILLON'S RULE...AND THE BIRTH OF HOME RULE" (PDF). New Mexico Municipal League. Retrieved November 16, 2021.
  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. ^ "Home Rule". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Alabama Humanities Alliance. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  5. ^ "The Connecticut Constitution". Connecticut State Library. April 2011. Archived from the original on 2009-03-23. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
  6. ^ See Dillon Rule and Home Rule: Principles of Local Governance, Nebraska Legislative Research Office, February 2020.
  7. ^ a b "OPINION NO. 2016-07" (PDF). ag.nv.gov. Nevada Attorney General. April 15, 2016. Retrieved February 15, 2024.
  8. ^ "Texas Constitution, Article XI, Section 5". statutes.legis.state.tx.us. November 8, 2011. Retrieved February 15, 2024.
  9. ^ "Texas Constitution, Article XI, Section 4". statutes.legis.state.tx.us. November 2, 1920. Retrieved February 15, 2024.
  10. ^ "Texas Education Code, Chapter 12, Subchapter B". statutes.legis.state.tx.us. May 30, 1995. Retrieved February 15, 2024.
  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.