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Master Syllabus

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Administrative Unit: History and Political Science Department
Course Prefix and Number: POSC 215
Course Title: State and Local Government
Number of:
Credit Hours 3
Lecture Hours 3
Lab Hours 0
Catalog Description:

Surveys American governments on the sub-national level and focuses on the impact those governments have over citizens’ lives. 

Course Rotation for Day Program:

Offered Odd Fall.

Text(s): Most current editions of the following:

Any current editions of texts covering American state and local government broadly and covering all topics in the Topical Outline.

State and Local Government by the People
By Magleby, Light, and Nemacheck (Pearson)
State and Local Government
By Bowman and Kearney (Houghton-Mifflin)
State and Local Government
By Smith and Nieman (CQ Press)
State and Local Government
By Saffell and Baseheart (McGraw Hill)
State and Local Politics: Institutions and Reform
By Donovan, Smith, and Mooney (Cengage)
Course Learning Outcomes
  1. Explain the various forms of government on the county and municipal level.
  2. Identify major features of state constitutions and explain the historical development of these documents.
  3. Describe the organization structures of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches on the state level.
  4. Develop an understanding of the complex relationship between the state and national governments and the forces driving that relationship.
  5. Identify the role played by political parties and interest groups on the sub national level.
  6. Identify American cultural patterns and explain how demographics, immigration and migration, and other factors have influenced those patterns. 
Major Topics/Skills to be Covered:

NOTE: A significant, intensive writing component is required for this course. This requirement may be satisfied by a single type-written paper of ten to twelve pages in length (or longer), properly cited, or by multiple paper assignments of equivalent length.

  • Role of state and local governments
  • Diversity in the state and local communities
    • Daniel Elazar’s cultural patterns
    • Demographic diversity
    • Historical migration patterns
  • State constitutions
  • Federalism
    • State and local roles in the federal structure
    • Historical patterns of the federal relationships
    • Advantages and disadvantages of federalism
  • Local governments
    • Types of local government; (municipal, county, special districts)
    • Organizational structure and powers of local governments
  • Political parties in the state and local governments
    • Party organization
    • Party machines
    • Regulation of parties
  • Other ways citizens participate in state and local government
    • Elections
    • Interest groups
    • Attending meetings
    • Other ways
  • State governors
    • Powers and responsibilities
  • State bureaucracies
    • Growth and power
    • Functions
    • Civil employment
  • State legislatures
    • Structures
    • Variations
    • Politics within state legislatures
    • The lawmaking process
  • Law and state judiciaries
    • Types of law
    • Civil and criminal procedure
    • Structure of state courts
    • Choosing judges

Recommended maximum class size for this course: 35

Library Resources:

Online databases are available at You may access them from off-campus using your CougarTrack login and password when prompted.

Prepared by: David Roebuck Date: February 17, 2016
NOTE: The intention of this master course syllabus is to provide an outline of the contents of this course, as specified by the faculty of Columbia College, regardless of who teaches the course, when it is taught, or where it is taught. Faculty members teaching this course for Columbia College are expected to facilitate learning pursuant to the course learning outcomes and cover the subjects listed in the Major Topics/Skills to be Covered section. However, instructors are also encouraged to cover additional topics of interest so long as those topics are relevant to the course's subject. The master syllabus is, therefore, prescriptive in nature but also allows for a diversity of individual approaches to course material.

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