Executive and Legislative Office Combined

SIC 9131

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This category covers councils and boards of commissioners or supervisors and such bodies in which the chief executive is a member of the legislative body itself.

The U.S. government is distinguished by a strict separation of powers between federal and executive offices, as outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Likewise, most state constitutions embody this unique and important American division of legislative labor. It serves to reduce the power that government has over its citizens. However, many local governments are largely devoid of this separation of powers. For the sake of simplicity and efficiency, city and county governmental units often combine administrative and lawmaking functions. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the late 2000s, there were approximately 3,000 county governments, 19,400 municipal governments, and 16,500 townships in the United States.

The three primary types of city governments are mayor-council, commission, and council-manager. Under the mayor-council arrangement, the mayor is technically charged with overseeing executive functions, such as formulating policy, presiding over functions, and preparing the budget. The council acts as the legislative body and establishes ordinances. In reality, however, the mayor often controls the actions of the council and ensures that laws are properly enforced. Most large cities still use a mayor-council government.

Under a commission form of city government, several commissioners are elected to serve as heads of city departments. A presiding commissioner usually acts as the mayor, but the commission oversees both administrative and lawmaking functions. Council-manager governments work similarly, but a council selects a city manager to run the government. City manager responsibilities vary, but many managers act in both legislative and executive roles to some extent.

Of the 50 states, 48 states have active county governments. Alaska and Louisiana refer to their county-level governments as boroughs and parishes, respectively. Although both Connecticut and Rhode Island have geographic areas referred to as counties, they do not function as traditional county governments.

During the late 2000s, most county governments in the United States used the commission, or board, arrangement. However, by 2009, less than 60 percent used the commission form of government as more and more counties shifted to either a county administrator or elected executive type government. In fact, counties in some states (including Tennessee, Kentucky, and Arkansas) were mandated by state legislatures to govern at the county level by elected executive. Varying titles of elected executives at the county level include county executive, mayor, county mayor, mayor/chief executive officer, county judge executive, and county judge.

County boards are typically comprised of three to five members elected from county districts, though boards range in size from 1 to more than 100 members. Consolidation of the three branches of government is most common in the South, but the majority of counties combine at least the executive and legislative offices--a legacy of the English governing system. In addition to traditional boards, an increasing number of states have moved to a county-manager system, in which the commission selects a manager to serve in a capacity similar to that of a city manager.

Also at the county level, voters typically elect several officials, or row officers, to handle specific executive functions. Elected county officer positions may include sheriff, prosecuting attorney, treasurer, county clerk, clerk of court, and many others. The degree of control that the county board or manager exercises over the row officers varies by county, but the responsibilities of the officers commonly include legislative and executive duties.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 173,800 top executives were in state and local governments (except education and health) in 2008. Overall, job prospects were expected to decline by 1.3 percent between 2008 and 2018. The median annual salary for a city manager/chief executive officer and a chief elected officer in 2008 was $92,992 and $44,928, respectively. Executives at every level of state and local government commonly had a mix of education and experience related to public administration, business, and politics. Employment of city and county managers will likely increase as more entities adopt that form of government.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

News and information about Executive and Legislative Office Combined

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