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How did we get all of these laws? Federal, State and Local Law.

When we took Civics in high school, we learned about the levels of government laws that include federal, state, county, and local statutes. Whether you passed civics class a couple of years ago or a few decades back, this article is a refresher course to help you understand the differences between the four different government levels.





Federal Law

Based on the political concept of federalism, the federal government consists of three branches. These branches are accountable for passing and regulating laws and issuing judicial decisions that define the legal standards for certain statutes.

The residents of the United States and the visitors that arrive throughout the year must follow federally enacted laws. The United States government operates under the supremacy clause, which means any law passed at the federal level takes legal precedence over statutes passed at the state, county, and local levels.

The United States Congress enacts legislation that the executive branch finetunes to form federal law. As mentioned in Article I of the United States Constitution, the federal government is limited in what types of statutes it can pass and regulate.

Although federal laws are somewhat limited in scope, the statutes cover both civil and criminal cases. For example, if a resident of Ohio files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, he or she must file a claim in a federal bankruptcy court because bankruptcy is a legal topic that falls under the purview of federal law.

Here are some other types of federal laws:

· Social Security

· Immigration

· Civil rights

· Patents

· Copyrights

· Federal criminal statutes like tax evasion and the counterfeiting American currency


State Law

According to the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution, all legal powers not granted to the federal government are left for the states to create statutes. States also operate with three branches counterbalancing each other.

Issues such as funding schools, libraries, and police departments receive attention from state lawmakers. It also regulates the driver’s license process and the issuing of parking tickets.

Most state constitutions are much more extensive than the United States Constitution. For instance, the Ohio Constitution contains a little more than 50,000 words, which is five times the number of words written into the United States Constitution.

Here a few other legal issues that fall under the jurisdiction of state lawmakers:

· Divorce

· Welfare

· Wills and estates

· Business contracts

· Personal injuries

· Workers’ compensation


County Law

Counties operate as administrative bodies that regulate things like business and liquor licenses. Establishing property taxes and conducting valuation assessments also fall under the legal authority of American counties. The most common form of county government is called the commission system.

Under the commission government structure, a small group of commissioners act as the governing body for the county. The commissioners set operating budgets and pass county resolutions.

According to the council-administrator form of county government, voters elect council members to serve an established period. In turn, the elected council members appoint an administrator to manage the operations of the county government.


Local Law

Local laws come from either a mayor-council or a council-manager system of local governance. The mayor-council system of local governance involves the council passing laws and the mayor’s office acting as the executive branch that regulates the laws.

A mayor’s powers may vary significantly in the United States. Some mayors possess a considerable amount of power to enforce local laws. Under a council-manager system, the members of the city council enact local laws, while a city manager implements the policies written into the statutes.

Municipal governments provide clean water for residents, as well as handle the collection of garbage. Recycling center operations typically fall under the legal authority of municipal governments. Local governments also take care of rent, zoning, and local safety laws.


James Schroeder is an attorney licensed to practice in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia focusing on real estate, estate planning, business and nonprofit law. He maintains offices in Sardinia Ohio and Egg Harbor City New Jersey. You may reach him at (973) 886-4563 or (609) 270-7590. Most of his clients come from Sardinia, Mount Orab, Georgetown, Russellville, West Union, Peebles and Seaman in Ohio and Egg Harbor City, Hammonton, Port Republic, Galloway and Mullica Township in New Jersey but if you are from anywhere in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia can call to discuss your legal issues.

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