State and Local Governments

In addition to the federal government, each state has its own constitution and its own government. Similar to the federal government, each state government has three branches: the legislative, executive, and judicial.

The leader of the state executive branch is called the “governor.” The people of each state vote in elections to choose their governor and their representatives to the state legislature.  The state legislature makes the laws that apply in each state. These laws cannot conflict with the U.S. Constitution, and each state judicial branch upholds the laws of that state. 

Each state also has local governments. There are city or county governments or sometimes both. They provide and oversee many services in your local community, such as public schools and libraries, police and fire departments, and water, gas, and electric services. People in local communities usually vote for local government officials, but some local officials are appointed. Local governments have different forms. Some have mayors as their leaders; some have city councils or county councils. Local communities also have school boards, citizens who are elected or appointed to oversee the public school.

What you can do

Many local government meetings are open to the public. Many are held at night so that anyone can attend. For example, you can go to a city council meeting or a school board meeting to learn more about what is going on in your community. These meetings and their times and locations are usually listed in the local newspaper. The meetings may be listed on the local government’s website. Some local government meetings also are on television on local cable stations.