Special legislation

Special legislation (also called local legislation) is a legal term of art used in the United States which refers to acts of a state legislature which apply only to a specific municipality (or a group thereof) which is identified by name in the legislation.

In some states, such as Pennsylvania, the state constitution prohibits special legislation; though it is often possible for the legislature to evade this restriction by describing the community in great detail without mentioning its name. (For example, Pennsylvania law defines certain powers of "cities of the second class", which was originally defined specifically to apply only to Pittsburgh; the lower threshold of this class has been revised downward to accommodate a decline in Pittsburgh's population, with the effect that other cities not originally envisioned have become entitled to second-class status.)

At the opposite end of the spectrum, in some states -- particularly the New England states -- the state legislature has plenary authority over municipalities, and may create or abolish them, or change their governing laws, at will. These states typically have very weak traditions of home rule, such that any significant legal change to a city or town's charter or governing laws, or an agreement between municipalities, must be authorized by an act of the legislature. There is usually a legal process by which a community may petition the legislature for such a change, and the outcome of this process, if the legislature consents, is special legislation.

In the middle are states like Georgia, where the state legislature must charter any new city, but does not have the power to directly change a charter. The city of Sandy Springs, one of the largest in Georgia, languished unincorporated for years despite local efforts due to the politics involved in this method, which prevented the affected people from voting on their own fate. Sandy Springs was finally incorporated in December 2005. The Georgia General Assembly may also revoke a city charter, as it did "" in 1995 from every city which did not offer at least three distinct services to its citizens.

The term "special legislation" may also apply in some states to legislation which names a particular person, as in appointment to a government position or conveyance of real property between an individual and the state, or between an individual and an unincorporated community.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • special legislation — A statute which does not have a uniform operation, relating to particular persons or things of a class, either particularized by the express terms of the act, or separated by any method of selection from the whole class to which the law might,… …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • local and special legislation — Term applies to special or particular places or special and particular person, and is distinguished from general statute in operation and relation to classes of persons or subjects. Madison County Board of Education v. Smith, 250 Ky. 495, 63… …   Black's law dictionary

  • special — spe·cial adj 1: distinguished by some unusual quality special circumstances justifying an award of attorney s fees 2: relating to a single thing or class of things: having an individual character or trait owed them a special duty not owed to the… …   Law dictionary

  • special — [spesh′əl] adj. [ME < OFr especial < L specialis < species, kind, sort: see SPECIES] 1. of a kind different from others; distinctive, peculiar, or unique 2. exceptional; extraordinary [a special treat] 3. highly regarded or valued [a… …   English World dictionary

  • special law — n 1: local law (1a) 2: a law that applies to a particular place or esp. to a particular member or members of a class of persons or things in the same situation but not to the entire class and that is unconstitutional if the classification made is …   Law dictionary

  • special area — noun Britain : an area forming the subject of special legislation because of disproportionately severe depression and destitution * * * Brit. See distressed area. * * * special area an earlier name for ↑development area (see under ↑develop). • •… …   Useful english dictionary

  • special act — See private act; special legislation …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • special law — See private act; special legislation …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • special statute — See private act; special legislation …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • Special police — and Special Police Force are terms which have different meanings in different countries, as described below.CanadaSpecial Police is not a term used in Canada. Instead, police who would fall into this role are referred to as Special Constables.… …   Wikipedia

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