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Governments States are free to organize their individual governments any way they like, so long as they conform to the Constitution of the United States.

Constitutions

In practice, each state has adopted a three-branch system of government (with legislative, executive, and judiciary branches) generally along the same lines as that of the federal government—though this is not a requirement.

Executive

In all of the U.S. states, the chief executive is called the Governor, who serves as both the ceremonial head of state and administrative head of government. The governor may approve or veto bills passed by the state legislature, as well as push for the passage of bills supported by the party of the Governor. In 43 states, governors have line item veto power.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

Most states have a "plural executive" in which two or more members of the executive branch are elected directly by the people. Such additional elected officials serve as members of the executive branch, but are not beholden to the governor and the governor cannot dismiss them. For example, the attorney general is elected, rather than appointed, in 43 of the 50 U.S. states.

Legislative

The legislatures of 49 of the 50 states are made up of two chambers: a lower house (termed the House of Representatives, State Assembly, General Assembly or House of Delegates) and a smaller upper house, always termed the Senate. The exception is the unicameral Nebraska Legislature, which is composed of only a single chamber.

Most states have part-time legislatures, while six of the most populated states have full-time legislatures. However, several states with high population have short legislative sessions, including Texas and Florida.<ref>http://www.reformcal.com/citleg_historical.pdf</ref>

In Baker v. Carr (1962) and Reynolds v. Sims (1964), the U.S. Supreme Court held that all states are required to elect their legislatures in such a way as to afford each citizen the same degree of representation (the one person, one vote standard). In practice, most states choose to elect legislators from single-member districts, each of which has approximately the same population. Some states, such as Maryland and Vermont, divide the state into single- and multi-member districts, in which case multi-member districts must have proportionately larger populations, e.g., a district electing two representatives must have approximately twice the population of a district electing just one.

If the governor vetoes legislation, all legislatures may override it, usually, but not always, requiring a two-thirds majority.

In 2013, there were a total of 7,383 legislators in the 50 state legislative bodies. They earned from $0 annually (New Mexico) to $90,526 (California). There were various per diem and mileage compensation.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref>

Judicial

States can also organize their judicial systems differently from the federal judiciary, as long as they protect the federal constitutional right of their citizens to procedural due process. Most have a trial level court, generally called a District Court or Superior Court, a first-level appellate court, generally called a Court of Appeal (or Appeals), and a Supreme Court. However, Oklahoma and Texas have separate highest courts for criminal appeals. New York State has its own terminology, in that the trial court is called the Supreme Court. Appeals are then taken to the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, and from there to the Court of Appeals.

Most states base their legal system on English common law (with substantial indigenous changes and incorporation of certain civil law innovations), with the notable exception of Louisiana, a former French colony, which draws large parts of its legal system from French civil law.

Only a few states choose to have the judges on the state's courts serve for life terms. In most of the states the judges, including the justices of the highest court in the state, are either elected or appointed for terms of a limited number of years, such as five years, eligible for re-election or reappointment if their performance is judged to be satisfactory.


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