State legislature (United States)

As State Legislature, the state legislatures are called in the United States. In some states, there are also terms such as General Assembly or General Court, since all U.S. states except Nebraska, a bicameral parliament - consisting of a Senate and House of Representatives - have, so it is a generic term. The members of both chambers of parliament are elected directly by the people.


State Legislature is in the states of the generic term for the legislative branch, consisting in all states except Nebraska consists of two chambers. The respective State Senate is the upper house ( Senate or Chamber also Smaller ) and the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house (even Larger Chamber, State Assembly or House of Representatives ).

The respective lower houses always have more MPs than the upper houses. The majority party elects the lower houses a spokesman for the chairman of the chamber, while in many state senates automatically the incumbent Lieutenant Governor is President of the Senate. However, he is only entitled to one vote at a stalemate. In addition, select the Senate, or the majority faction, a senate president on time (President pro tempore ). In the five states without a lieutenant governor, a senate president is elected by the chamber, which belongs to the majority party. In addition, select the respective fractions in both chambers a group chairmen.


The central task of the federal legislature is the law and the resolution in the state budget. For accomplishment of normal laws usually a simple majority in both chambers is necessary. It is imperative, however, that both chambers agree on a decision in the same wording. Some states have special rules but for certain decisions; as needed, for example in California until 2011, the household with a two-thirds majority to be adopted. This regulation was repealed in 2010 by a referendum. There, however, tax increases must be approved unchanged by a two -thirds majority.

The federal legislation includes all powers not expressly (ie the Congress in Washington ) is assigned by the U.S. Constitution to the federal government. Other tasks in the legislation can result in even also from the constitution of any State. Competencies that are subject to federal legislation, include:

  • Taxes levied by the State
  • Budget allocation
  • Criminal
  • Education policy
  • Family policy
  • Property law
  • Civil rights
  • Right to vote and parties
  • Land use
  • Company law
  • Public Service and Administration of the State
  • Labour

Adopted legislative proposals require the approval of the governor signed decisions and making out. However, governors have in her capacity as Head of State also has the right to appeal against them unpopular laws veto. In this case the federal state parliaments have the option to reject a veto by vote again. Here, however, a two-thirds majority is required in most states, only in a few, a simple or a three-fifths majority. If the required majority after an objection of the Governor not to pass, the bill shall be considered failed. Unlike the U.S. president at the federal level, the governors of many states also have the authority to make a so-called line- item veto. This provides for the deletion of individual passages in a law by the Governor. For the rejection of a line- item veto, the same rules as for vetoing an entire bill apply.

In addition to the legislation the state senates usually fall to the other tasks. Since the governor also appoints senior officials in the state apparatus as well as judges, as head of the executive branch of the constitutional courts of the states, these appointments usually require the approval of the Senate. A special results in some States in the appointment of a lieutenant governor, for example, if the current incumbent resigns or moving up to the governor. Here, the lower house of the nominees have to agree. Some states, however, do not provide for subsequent appointments, bringing vacant lieutenant governor post remain vacant until the next election. Days, the respective tribunals are not, the governor may also occupy post without approval immediately. However, with the necessary assurances at the next session must be made up or at least rejected by a vote of the Board.

Since both deputies and Governor directly and independently selected, it is possible that the parliamentary majority and the governor belong to different parties (see Divided government). Also, different majorities between the two chambers may arise. As in the United States at both the federal level and in the states party discipline is not common membership in the majority party is not necessarily an advantage must be for the governor. For him it is more important to secure the consent of the elected representatives in the State Legislature, without which it is practically impossible to govern hardly. On the other hand, the federal parliaments have no way a governor simply deselect them, for example, by a vote of no confidence. But governors may be removed from office by the legislature of the Office, where a two-thirds majority is required in the upper houses. However, the basis for such an impeachment always legal misconduct or illegal activities (eg corruption). An impeachment for political reasons is not possible. In a few states, but governors can be voted out prematurely by the people, but where there are high hurdles. Impeachment ( impeachment ) opposed any mandate holders in the state are in principle possible, but only the removal from office have resulted. A criminal prosecution and / or conviction can only be done by a competent court.

The legislatures of the states plays a central role in amendments to the Constitution of the United States beyond. In addition to a two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress and three-quarters of states must approve a constitutional amendment. With currently 50 states have to ratify therefore a modification of the constitution 38 parliaments.

Until the adoption of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in 1908, the federal legislatures chose the U.S. Senators. Since this constitutional amendment, the Senators are at the federal level, as well as members of the House of Representatives, elected directly by the citizens.

Elections to the members of a State Legislature made ​​directly by the people. All States are divided for upper and lower houses in districts that depend on the number of population. This is to ensure that each mandate holder represents roughly the same number of citizens. On the basis of in the U.S. every ten years by the censuses districts are adapted to the new conditions in the 10 -year cycle. The practice in some states control to choose state senators for the respective counties of the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 1964 to be unconstitutional. The electoral districts, so the judges have to subscribe to the population result and not an administrative unit.

The terms of office of the respective chambers differ from state to state. In most states, members of the Senate for four and those of the houses of parliament are elected for two years. By means of referenda countries have introduced term limits for elected officials introduced their duration but again differs depending on the state.

The elections are around the U.S. always on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. With the exception of Virginia and New Jersey, the select in odd-numbered years, elections to the State Legislature take place every two years, ie parallel to presidential and congressional elections. In two-year terms of office in the deputies houses so all seats to be filled each election, while the Senate at intervals of two years each newly elected half. Because with the exception of Maine and Vermont Governors are elected for four years, thus also occur in the middle of the term of office of a governor elections to the federal parliament.

After the legislative elections, parliaments constitute mostly about six to ten weeks after the election (ie, in December or January after the election ). The exact date determine the respective constitutions of states.


Federal state parliaments meet in the state capitols that are located in every capital of a state. The two chambers of parliament meet separately from each other, but usually in the same week, so that the State Legislature shall constitute a quorum. A joint meeting of both chambers takes place only when a speech by the governor, who is otherwise excluded from all meetings of the legislature. Speeches of Governors at least once per year, namely at the beginning, instead. These so-called State of the State Address government declarations of a governor are required by the federal constitution and have the purpose to inform the Members of Parliament on the situation of the state. These governors can also make concrete legislative proposals. However, a debate does not take place, after the speech the governor leaves the plenary hall again.

There are no uniform intervals in the U.S. for meetings. In the states with less population is around rush hour parliaments, where the meetings are fixed to a few per year. Here, the local officials have usually still another profession. Population Stronger states, particularly California, New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan, however, have full-time parliaments, which are comparable in the way they work with the Congress at the federal level. According to the deputies will also get higher rewards and are full professional members of the federal Parliament.