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home rule, municipal

home rule, municipal, system adopted in many states of the United States by which a city is given the right to draft and amend its own charter and to regulate purely local matters without interference from the state legislature. The rapid growth of urban centers in the latter part of the 19th cent. brought new and complex problems; the state legislatures, which had controlled most city government, found themselves incapable of handling the fast-growing cities. In 1875, Missouri adopted the first municipal home rule clause in its constitution; other states have followed its lead. The form of the rule varies greatly from state to state. There are two principal types of municipal home rule: constitutional home rule, by which cities are given the right by the state constitution to form their own charters; and legislative home rule, by which local autonomy is granted through an act of the state legislature. Local and general concerns cannot, of course, be strictly delimited, and there are frequent legal and political contests concerning jurisdiction. The growing importance of the suburbs and the relative decline of cities have led to the concept of metropolitan government as an intermediary between city and state government.

See J. D. McGoldrick, Law and Practice of Municipal Home Rule, 1916–1930 (1933, repr. 1972); R. P. Bolan, Fundamentals of Home Rule (1960); bibliography by N. C. Burg (1973).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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