Types of Authority Given by the State

Political power in a state can be divided into three spheres: the local government, the state government and the functions that the two governments share. 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

Typically, the broadest discretionary powers are applicable to local government structure, and the narrowest are given to finance. Also, local governments endowed with discretionary authority may not always exercise it; for example, the adoption or amendment of a local government's municipal charter is infrequent.

Note that California is both a home rule state and a Dillon's Rule state. 

In CA, charter cities are exempt from Dillon's rule and therefore have complete home rule authority.  But home rule counties are limited by Dillon's rule. 

  • A municipal corporation can exercise only the powers explicitly granted to them
  • Those necessarily or fairly implied in or incident to the powers expressly granted
  • Those essential to the declared objects and purposes of the corporation, not simply convenient, but indispensable

For the full story, go to: