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 those powers must be expressly delegated to it by the state (typically by legislative action) or are generally implicitly allowed unless specifically denied by state-level action.
This concept somewhat mirrors the notion of the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution, which reserves all powers to the states not (expressly) delegated to the US (nor "prohibited by it to the States". However, the analogy has little to do with actual applicable state-by-state law.
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 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 only exercise powers that the state expressly grants to them, to determine the bounds of a municipal government's legal authority. 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. 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:
- 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
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 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.|
|California||Yes||Yes||Dillon's Rule does not apply to charter cities.|
|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|
|Illinois||Yes||Yes||Dillon's Rule applies to municipalities not individually granted home rule.|
|Indiana||Limited||Yes||Dillon's Rule applies only to townships.|
|Kansas||Limited||Yes||Dillon's Rule does not apply to cities or counties.|
|Louisiana||Yes||Yes||Dillon's Rule only applies to charter municipalities established before 1974.|
|Michigan||Yes||Yes||Home rule applies to all cities, some villages, and two counties.|
|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. 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||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.|
|New Mexico||Yes||Yes||Dillon's Rule applies to municipalities not individually granted home rule.|
|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. Otherwise, cities with populations of 5,000 or less are governed by the general laws only. School districts are generally governed by the general laws; a district may adopt a home rule charter, but no district has chosen to do so. 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.|
|West Virginia||Yes||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.|
- Lang, Diane (December 1991). "DILLON'S RULE...AND THE BIRTH OF HOME RULE" (PDF). New Mexico Municipal League. Retrieved November 16, 2021.
- "Local Government Authority". National League of Cities. Archived from the original on August 4, 2016. Retrieved August 13, 2016.
- 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.
- "Home Rule". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Alabama Humanities Alliance. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
- "The Connecticut Constitution". Connecticut State Library. April 2011. Archived from the original on 2009-03-23. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
- See Dillon Rule and Home Rule: Principles of Local Governance, Nebraska Legislative Research Office, February 2020.
- http://ag.nv.gov/uploadedFiles/agnvgov/Content/Publications/2016-08-24_AGO_2016-07.pdf[bare URL PDF]
- http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/CN/htm/CN.11.htm#11.5 Texas Constitution, Article XI, Section 5.
- http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/CN/htm/CN.11.htm#11.4 Texas Constitution, Article XI, Section 4.
- http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/ED/htm/ED.12.htm#B Texas Education Code, Chapter 12, Subchapter B.
- http://www.texaspolicy.com/sites/default/files/documents/2012-06-RR04-ImprovingEfficiencyLocalControlTexasEducationHomeRuleDistricts-CEP-JamesGolsanBillPeacock.pdf[bare URL PDF]
- "Local Government Autonomy and the Dillon Rule in Virginia". Retrieved 2020-05-12.
- "The West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Program". West Virginia Department of Revenue. 2021. Retrieved 2021-12-30.