By Sebastian Godinez
Few Americans give appreciation to their local government, even state. Sure, they may tune in to the governor’s race because he or she signed some unpopular piece of legislation (think Indiana’s religious freedom bill a few years ago or North Carolina’s bathroom bill). But, by and large, they don’t pay attention to what is going on, or at best they simply go along with it. However, if one stops to think about it, it is important to give local and state politics their due consideration.
Let me give an example. My town had a recent referendum on a bill to improve our schools. It was a $25 million bill to improve the sports stadium at our high school. Despite the stadium being both relatively small and only about ten years old, the referendum passed overwhelmingly. How a bill aimed at fixing my school’s sports facility (for teams that are not even that good) is “improving our school” is beyond me. But local legislatures have the power to decide a plethora of things, which is why it is important we all pay attention to our local governments. They decide important things like how much the minimum wage is, but also mundane things like property taxes rates. While property taxes may seem like a foreign subject to us college students, it can cost both many a sweet penny and most people don’t track what is being purchased with that money.
And something similar is present on a state level. I won’t lie, I didn’t know my state representative until a year ago. I do not track the proceedings of the New Jersey state legislature, except what Politico tells me is important. But I should. States decide things that are important to consider such as laws governing minimum wage, how stringently issues like abortion and marijuana are regulated. But it is not just wedge issues that you should pay attention to. There are rather mundane, boring acts that states often deal with. Workers’ pensions, whether Amazon should be allowed to fly drones down your street, and how much the state can charge you for gas or state sales tax is.
Moreover, many local and state officials may go onto to serve in a federal capacity (Cory Booker was mayor of Newark prior to becoming a Senator, many presidents are former governors). So however unimportant it may seem, give local and state politics their due consideration.
Sebastian is a senior Political Science major.