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Archiver > NORWAY > 2002-03 > 1016246538

From: "Lars Oyane" <>
Subject: Re: Norwegian Fylke and Kommunes
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2002 21:31:12 -0600
References: <>

Dear Ruby, Neil, Carl and others!

I am amazed to see the number of comments following my "presentation" from
yesterday on this subject. I am no expert, but let me try to answer some of
the questions that came up:

> Do the fylke or Kommune also have jurisdiction over the Schools? here at
least in Minnesota our school districts are another layer of government.

In Norway the kommune has jurisdiction over the schools from Kindergarden up
until what you call junior high ("ungdomsskule"). Then senior high
("videregåande skule") is under the jurisdiction of the fylke.

> Now, how is Norway different? I don't know if there are legislative
bodies passing laws below the Storting. Do fylkes or kommunes have them?
How about levels of courts? Are the fylke and kommune levels of government
strictly administrative in nature? Even it they don't pass laws per se, can
they issue rules and regulations that are different from those of another
fylke or kommune? Are there strictly local regulations? Who decides if you
can plant petunias in your front yard?

Norway has a system of National Laws, voted by the Norwegian National
Congress ("Stortinget"), as well as a whole range of local "regulations"
voted by each kommune and which may vary from one kommune to the next.
However, the kommune can only make "regulations" that are not in conflict
with any of the National Laws. Thus, while the speed limits are nationally
voted, each kommune can decide on their parking system, to a certain extent
on the opening hours of the stores, on treatment of garbage, on the
organization of health services and many many other areas. And since som
kommunes offer a better "service" for mentally retarded people that others,
this sometimes make people move from one kommune to another! As far as I
know, you are free to plant petunias in your front yard everywhere in
Norway, but you are NOT allowed to raise chicken in any back yard...! I
think that's a common "regulation" made by the kommune.

As far as law enforcement is concerned, every kommune has a "lensmann"
(=sheriff) or a "politimester" (=chief of police), depending on the size of
the kommune, i.e. another area where the Norwegian kommune corresponds to
your county. Traditionally each kommune also used to have a jail; however,
for safety reasons, the jail system was changed years ago, so today there
are normally only three or four jails in each fylke. So someone in Sogn who
has to go to jail for 21 days after "drunken driving", will have to go to
"Playa del Vik"!

While the larger kommunes in Norway have their own court with their own
judge, you will discover, in the rural areas, a system of regional courts
and judges. These subdivisions, between kommune and fylke, are referred to
as "sorenskriveri". In Sogn og Fjordane fylke there are four
"sorenskriveri". If you are locally ("forhørsrett") judged guilty of some
criminal act, you can appeal to one of the regional courts ("lagmannsrett")
of Norway (I am not sure how many there are of those, I think about six or
eight?), while the final appeal must be placed at the Norwegian supreme
court ("høgsterett").

> Kneel's discussion of US levels of government raises a question in my mind
that I have not seen discussed on the List in the past. How about taxes?
Do those various levels of government in Norway all collect taxes? In the
US, I pay federal, state, and county Income Taxes. I pay county property
taxes which primarily pay for the schools. I pay sales taxes to the state
which amounts to 5% of every purchase I make. There are also special state
taxes on gasoline, liquor, cigarette's etc.(called sin taxes). I pay city
taxes which pays for police and parks. I'm probably leaving out some, but
my point is that every level of government in the US has authority to
collect taxes. Does the same level of taxation exist in Norway?

In Norway we also pay three kinds of income taxes, "kommuneskatt" to the
kommune, "fylkesskatt" to the fylke (administered by the kommune) and
"statsskatt" to the "country". The "kommuneskatt" and "fylkesskatt"
together normally equallizes the "statsskatt", depending on income. We have
a national sales tax of 24% for the entire country, and all taxes on
gasoline, liquor, cigarettes are voted by the national congress
("Stortinget"). So, while the income tax system corresponds to yours (i.e.
kommmune=county, fylke=state and stat=federal), the other taxes don't.

This turned out to be a long message, and I don't know whether it helped
anyone gain a better understanding of our system or how to understand our
fylkes and kommunes. Personally, the more I get involved in this kind of
discussions, the more determined I am to translate kommune with county and
fylke with state or province.

Now, if someone wants to know what is a "prestegjeld", then that is easy to
translate with "parish", while "kyrkjesokn", i.e. the first and only
subdivision of a "prestegjeld", has to be translated with "church area".
Originally, when Norway was first divided into kommunes, the division
basically followed the parish borders. However, various mergers between
kommunes in later years have not necessarily given new parish borders....
But that's another topic...!

Very sincerely yours,

Lars E. Oyane
Luster County Historian
P. O. Box 25 Nesttun
5852 Bergen

phone: (011) 475 512 1646
or: (011) 473 209 0157
fax: (011) 475 512 3852

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