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State governments in the United States are those governments formed in each U.S. state.
Structured in accordance with state law (including state constitutions and state statutes), most state governments are modeled on the federal system, with three branches of government—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.
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 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 ticket with the Governor) and state Attorney General, state Secretary of State, state Auditors (or comptrollers or controllers), Commissioner of Agriculture, and Commissioner of Education.
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 U.S. states consists of state legislatures. Every state except for Nebraska has a bicameral legislature that consists of two houses; the Nebraska Legislature is unicameral.
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 legislature is simply called the "Legislature." Another 19 states call their legislature the "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."
The upper house of the state legislatures is referred to as the state Senate. The lower house of state legislatures is referred to as the House of Representatives (state House) in most states, the House of Delegates (Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia), the State Assembly (California and Wisconsin), the Assembly (New York, Nevada), and the New Jersey General Assembly (New Jersey).
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.
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. New York's highest court is called the Court of Appeals, while its trial court is known as the Supreme Court. Texas and Oklahoma each have bifurcated court systems; both states have a supreme court that hears civil cases and a court of criminal appeals.
Portions of this article were adapted from Wikipedia.