State governments of the United States are institutional units in the United States exercising some of the functions of government at a level below that of the federal government. Each state's government holds legislative, executive, and judicial authority over a defined geographic territory. The United States comprises 50 states: 13 that were already part of the United States at the time the present Constitution took effect in 1789, plus 37 that have been admitted since by Congress as authorized under Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution.
While each state government within the United States holds legal and administrative jurisdiction within its bounds, they are not sovereign in the Westphalian sense in international law which says that each State has sovereignty over its territory and domestic affairs, to the exclusion of all external powers, on the principle of non-interference in another State's domestic affairs, and that each State (no matter how large or small) is equal in international law. Additionally, the member states of the United States do not possess international legal sovereignty, meaning that they are not recognized by other sovereign States such as, for example, France, Germany or the United Kingdom, nor do they possess full interdependence sovereignty (a term popularized by international relations professor Stephen D. Krasner), meaning that they cannot control movement of persons across state borders. The idea of "dual sovereignty" or "separate sovereigns" is derived from the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which states that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Structured in accordance with state law (including state constitutions and state statutes), state governments share the same structural model as the federal system, with three branches of government—executive, legislative, and judicial.
The governments of the 13 states that formed the original Union under the Constitution trace their roots back to the British royal charters which established them. Most of the states admitted to the Union after the original 13 have been formed from organized territories established and governed by Congress in accord with its plenary power under Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the Constitution. Six subsequent states were never an organized territory of the federal government, or part of one, before being admitted to the Union. Three were set off from an already existing state: Kentucky (1792, from Virginia), Maine (1820, from Massachusetts), and West Virginia (1863, from Virginia). Two were sovereign states at the time of their admission: Texas (1845, previously the Republic of Texas), and Vermont (1791, previously the Vermont Republic De facto). One was established from unorganized territory: California (1850, from land ceded to the United States by Mexico in 1848 under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo).
In the majority of states (26), the state legislature is simply called "Legislature". Another 19 states call their legislature "General Assembly". Two states (Oregon and North Dakota) use the term "Legislative Assembly", while another two (Massachusetts and New Hampshire) use the term "General Court".
In the 49 bicameral legislatures, the upper house is called the "Senate".
Until 1964, state senators were generally elected from districts that were not necessarily equal in population. In some cases state senate districts were based partly on county lines; in the vast majority of states the senate districts provided proportionately greater representation to rural areas. However, in the 1964 decision Reynolds v. Sims, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, unlike the United States Senate, state senates must be elected from districts of approximately equal population.
In 40 of the 49 bicameral state legislatures, the lower house is called the "House of Representatives". The name "House of Delegates" is used in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. California and Wisconsin call their lower house the "State Assembly", while Nevada and New York simply call the lower house the "Assembly". New Jersey calls its lower house the "General Assembly".
The executive branch of every state is headed by an elected Governor. Most states have a plural executive, in which several key members of the executive branch are directly elected by the people and serve alongside the governor. These include the offices of lieutenant governor (often on a joint ticket with the governor) and attorney general, secretary of state, auditors (or comptrollers or controllers), treasurer, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner (or superintendent) of education, and commissioner of insurance.
Each state government is free to organize its executive departments and agencies in any way it likes. This has resulted in substantial diversity among the states with regard to every aspect of how their governments are organized.
Most state governments traditionally use the department as the standard highest-level component of the executive branch, in that the secretary of a department is normally considered to be a member of the governor's cabinet and serves as the main interface between the governor and all agencies in his or her assigned portfolio. A department in turn usually consists of several divisions, offices, and/or agencies. A state government may also include various boards, commissions, councils, corporations, offices, or authorities, which may either be subordinate to an existing department or division, or independent altogether.
A few of the most populous or oldest states have run into serious administrative problems because they promoted too many important government functions from divisions to departments (usually in response to whatever was the biggest scandal at the time), thereby expanding the governor's cabinet to an unwieldy size. Rather than adopt the sensible (but politically radioactive) solution of demoting some departments back to divisions, those states created another level above departments and limited cabinet membership to the officers appointed at that level. California created "agencies" (also called "superagencies" by government insiders to distinguish them from the general usage of the term "agency"), Kentucky created "cabinets", Massachusetts created "executive offices", and Vermont created "agencies".
The judicial branch in most states has a court of last resort usually called a supreme court that hears appeals from lower state courts. New York's highest court is called the Court of Appeals, while its trial court is known as the Supreme Court. Maryland also calls its highest court the Court of Appeals. Texas and Oklahoma each separate courts of last resort for civil and criminal appeals. Each state's court of last resort has the last word on issues of state law and can be overruled only on issues of federal law by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The structure of courts and the methods of selecting judges is determined by each state's constitution or legislature. Most states have at least one trial-level court and an intermediate appeals court from which only some cases are appealed to the highest court.
Although the exact position of each component may vary, there are certain components common to most state governments:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The government of Alaska in common with state and federal governments of the United States, has three branches of government: the executive, consisting of the Governor of Alaska and the state agencies; the state legislature consisting of two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate; and the judiciary consisting of the Supreme court and lower courts.
Alaska has 246 federally recognized tribal governments and one federal Indian (Native American) reservation.Government of Arizona
The government of Arizona is the governmental structure of the state of Arizona as established by the Arizona Constitution. The executive is composed of the Governor, several other statewide elected officials, and the Governor's cabinet. The Arizona Legislature consists of the House of Representatives and Senate. The judiciary is composed of the Arizona Supreme Court and lower courts. There is also local government, consisting of counties, municipalities and special districts.Government of Colorado
The Government of Colorado is the governmental structure as established by the Constitution of the State of Colorado. It is composed of three branches: the executive branch headed by the Governor, the legislative branch consisting of the General Assembly, and the judicial branch consisting of the Supreme Court and lower courts. The constitution also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall and ratification.Government of Georgia (U.S. state)
The state government of Georgia is the U.S. state governmental body established by the Georgia State Constitution. It is a republican form of government with three branches: the legislature, executive, and judiciary. Through a system of separation of powers or "checks and balances", each of these branches has some authority to act on its own, some authority to regulate the other two branches, and has some of its own authority, in turn, regulated by the other branches.
The seat of government for Georgia is located in Atlanta.Government of Hawaii
The Government of Hawaii is the governmental structure as established by the Constitution of Hawaii, the 50th state to have joined the United States.Government of Illinois
The Government of Illinois, under the state’s constitution, has three branches of government: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The State's, executive branch is split into several statewide elected offices, with the Governor as chief executive and head of state, and has numerous departments, agencies, boards and commissions. Legislative functions are granted to the General Assembly, a bicameral body consisting of the 118-member House of Representatives and the 59-member Senate. The judiciary is composed of the Supreme Court of Illinois and lower courts.Government of Michigan
Michigan has a republican form of government with three branches of government: the executive branch consisting of the Governor of Michigan and the other independently elected constitutional officers; the legislative branch consisting of the House of Representatives and Senate; and the judicial branch consisting of the one court of justice. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification.Government of Missouri
The government of the U.S. state of Missouri is organized into the state government and local government, including county government, and city and municipal government.Government of Nevada
The government of Nevada comprises three branches of government: the executive branch consisting of the Governor of Nevada and the Governor's cabinet along with the other elected constitutional officers; the legislative branch consisting of the Nevada Legislature which includes the Assembly and the Senate; and the judicial branch consisting of the Supreme Court of Nevada and lower courts.Government of New Mexico
The government of New Mexico (a state in the United States of America) is the governmental structure of the state of New Mexico as established by the Constitution of New Mexico. The executive is composed of the Governor, several other statewide elected officials and the Governor's cabinet. The New Mexico Legislature consists of the House of Representatives and Senate. The judiciary is composed of the New Mexico Supreme Court and lower courts. There is also local government, consisting of counties, municipalities and special districts.Government of North Carolina
The government of North Carolina is divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. These consist of the Council of State (led by the Governor), the bicameral legislature (called the General Assembly), and the state court system (headed by the North Carolina Supreme Court). The Constitution of North Carolina delineates the structure and function of the state government.Government of Ohio
The government of the U.S. state of Ohio consists of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches. Its basic structure is set forth in the Constitution and law of Ohio.Government of Oregon
The government of the U.S. state of Oregon, as prescribed by the Oregon Constitution, is composed of three government branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. These branches operate in a manner similar to that of the federal government of the United States.Oregon also has a system of commissions, wherein private citizens are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate; these commissions have the authority to hire and fire the heads of the agencies they govern, and must confirm changes to the permanent rules governing those agencies.Government of Pennsylvania
The Government of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the governmental structure of the state of Pennsylvania as established by the Pennsylvania Constitution. It is composed of three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. The capital of the Commonwealth is Harrisburg.Government of Rhode Island
The government of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations is prescribed from a multitude of sources; the main sources are the Rhode Island Constitution, the General Laws, and executive orders. The governmental structure is modeled on the Government of the United States in having three branches: executive, legislative,and judicial.Government of Tennessee
The government of Tennessee is organized under the provisions of the 1870 Constitution of Tennessee, first adopted in 1796. As set forth by the state constitution, Tennessee's government is divided into three branches: executive, judicial, and legislative branches. The seat of the government in Tennessee is in its capital city of Nashville.Government of Utah
Utah is a state in The United States of America. Its government consists of a state executive, legislative, and judicial branch, laid forth by the constitution and law of the State of Utah.Government of West Virginia
The Government of West Virginia is modeled after the Government of the United States, with three branches: the executive, consisting of the Governor of West Virginia and the other elected constitutional officers; the legislative, consisting of the West Virginia Legislature which includes the Senate and the House of Delegates; and the judicial, consisting of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and lower courts.
The capital and seat of government in West Virginia is the city of Charleston, located in the southwest area of the state.Government of the State of Washington
The government of the State of Washington is the governmental structure of the State of Washington as established by the Constitution of the State of Washington. The executive is composed of the Governor, several other statewide elected officials and the Governor's cabinet. The Washington State Legislature consists of the House of Representatives and State Senate. The judiciary is composed of the Washington Supreme Court and lower courts. There is also local government, consisting of counties, municipalities and special districts.
State governments of the United States
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