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Name some of the local units in this Commonwealth.
In which States does the county perform most of the work of government ?
Why is local government of great importance ?
Describe the township type of local government. Where is it found ? Describe the county type. Describe the county-township system as found in Pennsylvania.
What is said in the State constitution concerning the organization and powers of townships?
How does the local government in Pennsylvania differ from that found in the New England States? From that in the Southern States?
How may you distinguish State authority from Federal authority ?
Give a general description of the mixed or compromise system of local government.
What are the advantages of local self-government over centralized government?
TOWNSHIPS AND TOWNSHIP OFFICERS
The Elemental Unit.—The elemental unit of civil government in Pennsylvania is the township, subordinated to the government of the county, State, and Nation. A citizen is thus subject to several grades of political authority or government. Affairs of greatest importance belong to the National Government; a different class of important matters pertain to the sphere of the State; while the local government is divided between the county and township in most cases.
Area: Population: Classes.—Townships vary in area and population, but both are usually small. The area is usually about 30 square miles, while the population varies from 29 (Cold Spring) to 17,671 (Lower Merion). The State, exclusive of cities and boroughs, is laid out into townships. Each is a creation of law, and a body corporate and politic. By a recent Act of the General Assembly, the townships of the State are divided into two classes. Those having a population of at least 300 to the square mile, as shown by the United States census, are designated townships of the first class; all others are townships of the second class. The form of government is practically the same in all townships of the same class, and is prescribed by the General Assembly.
Township Officers.—The laws of the Commonwealth provide for township officers as follows: Justices of the peace, constable, supervisors, overseers of the poor, assessors, tax collector, auditors, school directors, and township clerk. For election purposes, the electors choose one judge of election and two inspectors; each inspector appoints one clerk.
The officers above named are those provided for in both classes of townships, with some exceptions made by the Act of 1899 erecting townships of the first class. The officers provided for in that Act are enumerated on page 52.
Qualifications and Election.—No person is eligible to any township office unless he is a voter in the township. Election occurs biennially on the municipal election day: the Tuesday next after the first Monday of November in each odd-numbered year. Unless the General Assembly provides otherwise, the terms of all township and election officers begin on the first Monday in December next after their election to office. The duties of certain of these officers are of such nature that the Legislature must be given power to adjust the time of entrance upon the performance of the same. (See Schedule, p. xxxii of Appendix.)
The Justice of the Peace.—The justice's court is of the simplest kind, and is the court of greatest antiquity. The officers of this township court are the justice of the peace and the constable. The justice of the peace is usually both judge and jury, but he may on occasion impanel a jury of six men. The principal duty of this officer, in so far as criminal matters are concerned, is to issue warrants for the arrest of persons suspected of crime, and to give preliminary hearings. For minor offenses he may impose a fine, and even a short term in jail; but for serious offenses, he binds the person over to the county courts for trial if the evidence is against the accused, releasing him on bail until the time of trial.
The final jurisdiction of this local court in civil matters is restricted to cases not involving more than $5.33; but, subject to the right of appeal to the higher courts, the justice of the peace may exercise jurisdiction over cases not involving more than $300. His decision is commonly final in cases not involving more than $100.
Among other duties which may be performed by this officer are the administering of oaths, the taking of acknowledgments of deeds, the attesting of signatures on other documents, the issuing of legal writs, and the performing of the marriage ceremony.
Each township elects two justices (111),* and the term of office is six years. Commissions are issued by the Governor (111); but in some townships which have little business it is customary for only one of those elected to take out his commission. The compensation of the justice consists of fees.
The Constable.—The constable holds an office of great antiquity, and is largely responsible for the preservation of the peace of the community. He carries out the directions of the justice of the peace, and, as the peace officer of the township, has the right to arrest without a warrant if he himself sees the offense against the law. If he is unable to arrest an accused person on account of violence, or to subdue a riot, he may call upon the citizens to help him (posse comitatus). He is required to make a full report to the court as to the peace and conformity to law in his bailiwick.
The constable also serves notices and executes warrants and writs issued by the justice of the peace. He is the ministerial officer of the township. He executes search warrants, subpænas witnesses, and sells goods that have been levied upon to satisfy debts. He is empowered to arrest vagrants and to confine them. Certain important duties as to elections
* Numbers such as these refer to sections of the State constitution as given on pages i–xxxii, near the end of this book.
are required of him. He must give public notice of an election, preserve order at the voting place, and be present in the voting room during the counting of the vote. He delivers certificates of election to township officers. His term of office is four years, and his pay consists of fees fixed by law.
The Supervisors.—The supervisors represent the township as a body corporate, may acquire and dispose of property, and be a party to suits at law. Their principal duty is to direct the repair and construction of township roads and bridges. In some counties they are called road commissioners. They levy the annual road tax, and see that it is collected. It is a common practice with many taxpayers to work out the road tax. Supervisors must see that guide posts are erected at the intersection of roads; and failure to comply with this provision subjects them to a fine not exceeding $10.00 for each offense. The supervisors are authorized by law, at their option, to purchase a suitable lot of ground and to erect thereon a townhouse in which to hold elections, store road machinery, hold meetings of township officers, or use for other township purposes. A supervisor may exercise the duties of the constable under circumstances arising from the negligence, death, or absence of that official.
The law provides that two superviscrs shall be elected biennially, but by direct vote the qualified electors in any township of the second class may decide to elect a greater number. The term of office is two years. The compensation is five per cent. commission for the collection of the road tax, and $1.50 per day for the time actually devoted to the work on the roads or to other public business.
Overseers of the Poor.-In some counties the commissioners have not erected and equipped almshouses for the care of the poor; where this is the case, the township elects