The Basic Law guarantees local self-government, and the states (Länder) are granted all powers not specifically reserved to the federal government. The Federal Republic consists of 16 Länder: Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hessen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Niedersachsen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, and Thuringen.
Länder have their own ministerial governments and legislatures. They have primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order; jurisdiction over their own finances, taxes, and administration; and supreme authority in education and other cultural activities. Through the Bundesrat, the Länder have considerable influence in federal legislation.
Communes (Gemeinden) are the basic units of local government, apart from the municipalities, and have the right to regulate such local matters as those involving schools, building, cultural affairs, and welfare. Halfway between the Länder and the communes are the counties (Landkreise), which have autonomy in such matters as road building, transportation, and hospitals. They are administered by a Landrat, the chief official, and a Kreistag (country legislature).