State governments of the United States

State governments of the United States

State governments in the United States (sometimes referred to as "The State") is generally structured in accordance with the laws of the various individual states. Typically each state has one unilateral tier with multiple branches, including the Executive, Legislative and Judicial.

Under the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, all governmental powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved for the states or to the people.

The governments of the 13 colonies which formed the original union under the Constitution trace their history back to the royal charters which established them during the year of colonialism. Most other states were organized as federal territories before forming their governments and requesting admittance into the union.

Notable exceptions are California, Vermont, Texas and Hawaii, which were sovereign nations before joining the union.


All U.S. states have a state constitution and a three-branch government similar to that of the federal government. While the U.S. Constitution mandates that each state shall have a "republican form" of government, this particular structure is not mandatory.


The executive branch of every state is headed by an elected governor. Most states also have a lieutenant 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.

As a sovereign entity, 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; the organizational chart for each state's executive branch can be characterized as "sui generis".


The legislative branch of the US States is bicameral, except for Nebraska, which has a Unicameral legislature. While the Nebraska legislature is officially known, like most, as the "Legislature", it is more commonly called the "Senate", as its members are officially called "Senators". In the majority of states (26), the state's legislature—that is, the upper and lower house referred to as one—is simply called "The Legislature". Another 19 states name their legislature the "General Assembly", while the legislatures of Oregon and North Dakota share the appellation "Legislative Assembly". The most unusual moniker for a state legislature is "General Court", which is used by both Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Upper House

In all 49 states with bicameral legislatures, the upper house is referred to as the "Senate". The exception to this rule is Nebraska's unicameral, which has a single house.

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 decreed that, unlike the United States Senate, state senates must be elected from districts of approximately equal population.

Lower House

In 41 of the 49 states with lower houses, 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". And New Jersey calls its lower house the "General Assembly".


The judicial branch is typically headed by a state supreme court which hears appeals from lower state courts. The structure of courts and the methods by which judges are elected or appointed are determined by legislation or the state constitution. Oddly, New York's highest court is called the Court of Appeals, while its trial court is known as the Supreme Court.


In order to complete their duties states form a variety of offices with particular assignments designated by the various branches. These offices may include:
* State education agency
* State department of ecology
* State department of health
* State police
* State department of transportation

Additional information

Each state has an official seal.

ee also

* Local government in the United States
* Federal government of the United States

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