- from Maryland
Much of the time, the United States government runs pretty smoothly.
Laws are passed and enforced. Court cases are heard. Relations with other countries are carried out. This is due primarily to the genius of our Constitution. The Constitution establishes three branches of government – the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. The legislative branch makes the laws. The executive branch enforces the laws. And the judicial branch decides whether laws are constitutional or unconstitutional. The Constitution also establishes the separation of powers. That means the government has a system of checks and balances that makes sure no single branch of government has too much power.
▲ The United States Congress has two parts – the House of Representatives and the Senate. The people who make up the House and the Senate come from every state, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Territories. Every state has two senators, no matter how many people live there. Every state has representatives according to its population. So states where many people live, like New York or California, have more representatives. States where few people live, like Alaska, have fewer representatives. Maryland has two senators and eight representatives.
Maryland’s government is divided into three branches, just like the national government. It also has the same checks and balances. The governor is the head of the executive branch. The General Assembly is the legislative branch. It makes laws that apply only to people in Maryland. The Supreme Court of Maryland is the highest court in the state. ▶
State Seal of Maryland
Wes Moore, Governor
◀ The governor, the attorney general, and the comptroller are the only statewide officials elected independently. The governor serves for four years and then can run for re-election. The governor is limited to two terms in a row.
Enforces the laws of the state; provides leadership for agencies such as the Department of Health, Department of Transportation, Department of Education
Represents the state in legal matters; advises the governor in legal matters
Makes sure taxes are collected and spent fairly and responsibly
▲ Maryland’s legislative branch, called the General Assembly, has two parts. One part is the Senate, with 47 members. The other part is the House of Delegates, with 141 members. The Senate and the House meet in the Maryland State House (above). Members serve a term of four years. After that, they can run for re-election as often as they want. The General Assembly’s main job is to make the laws of the state. Members also work with the governor on the state budget.
▲ The Supreme Court of Maryland is the highest court of the state. Seven judges, appointed by the governor, are on the court. After serving for at least one year, judges must run for retention in the next general election if they want to stay on the court. This is known as a retention election. If the judge is elected, he or she wins a full ten-year term. The job of Maryland judges is to settle disagreements. They do this by applying the state’s laws.
▲ Many people complain about taxes. Taxes are the money people pay to the city, state, or federal government. Some taxes are based on a person’s income. Some taxes are added to the price of goods and services. Where does all that tax money go, you might ask. It depends. State taxes pay for building and repairing state roads. They pay for public transportation. And for insurance for people who cannot afford it. Local taxes pay for teachers’ salaries, libraries, police, firefighters, sanitation workers, and lots more. People may think their taxes are too high. But without them, our state and our country would look quite different.
▲ Maryland has 23 counties plus Baltimore City (which is treated as a county). County government may be organized in different ways, but all counties are in charge of the same basic services. That includes schools, police, fire, parks, healthcare, libraries, parks, and sanitation. This is where you can really see your tax dollars at work.