Vol 22, 2013 Annals of Health Law
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE FOOD SYSTEM
II. LOCAL GOVERNMENTS AS PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY-MAKERS
Under U.S. law, local governments exist by a specific grant of authority
from state constitutions or statutes.14 In many states, local authority includes
broad power to address local issues, also known as home rule.15 Localities
can thus govern themselves as long as they comply with state and federal
laws. For example, Rhode Island’s constitution states,
It is the intention of this article to grant and confirm to the people of every
city and town in this state the right of self government in all local matters. . . .
Every city and town shall have the power at any time to adopt a charter,
amend its charter, enact and amend local laws relating to its property, affairs
and government not inconsistent with this constitution and laws enacted by
the general assembly in conformity with the powers reserved to the general
14. Hunter v. Pittsburgh, 207 U.S. 161, 178 (1907) (“Municipal corporations are political
subdivisions of the State, created as convenient agencies for exercising such of the
governmental powers of the state as may be entrusted to them. . . . The number, nature, and
duration of the powers conferred upon these corporations and the territory over which they
shall be exercised rests in the absolute discretion of the State.”).
15. See Lynn A. Baker & Daniel B. Rodriguez, Constitutional Home Rule and Judicial
Scrutiny, 86 DENV. U. L. REV. 1337, 1338 (2009) (“While home rule is the creation of
legislatures acting within constitutional conventions or through other mechanisms, the
contours and content of home rule have been developed by the courts through adjudication. . . .
The result of these efforts has been a highly developed, and still developing, case law, one that
involves drawing lines between what is properly the domain of state government and those
powers which may be exercised by municipalities free of state preemption.”).
16. R.I. CONST. art. XIII, § 2; see IND. CODE § 36-1-3-2 (2012) (“The policy of the state
is to grant units all the powers that they need for the effective operation of government as to
17. Elijah Swiney, John Forrest Dillon Goes to School: Dillon’s Rule in Tennessee Ten
Years After Southern Constructors, 79 TENN. L. REV. 103, 106 (2011) (“Dillon’s Rule
encompasses not only a rule for interpreting statutes but also a more substantive view of the
nature of local power in the American constitutional system.”).