States Rule!


States have power, too

When our government was created, one of the biggest fights was over how power should be divided between the new national government and the thirteen states. They had just fought a revolution to free themselves from a king! And their first attempt at a new government, the Articles of Confederation, had failed because each state had too much power. No one was in charge, and the country was at risk of falling apart. The question: where to find the right balance?

The Constitution

The Constitution created a new, stronger national government with distinct powers. It also gave the states specific powers to ensure they could still make their own laws, too. Dividing powers among a national government and different state governments is called "federalism." To be even more certain states' powers would be protected, the 10th amendment was included in the Bill of Rights. Click on the link and scroll to Amendment X to read the text of the 10th Amendment.

States are unique

Just like the national government, each state has its own constitution. Just like the national government, each state makes its own laws. Just like the national government, each state government has three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. Want to learn more about your state? Click on the link, click on your particular state, and go straight to your state's homepage. Check it out!

P.S. Who's your governor? You'll be learning about governors on the next page.

The executive branch

Each state has an executive branch that includes a governor and government agencies that carry out state laws. The governor is like the CEO or the boss; he or she is in charge of keeping things running smoothly in the state. The state government agencies carry out state laws. For example, when you take your driving test, it is run by the state department of transportation! Click on the video link to find out more about being a governor!

The legislative branch

Who writes state laws? State legislatures! Their job is to write and pass bills that help their particular state. Its specific name, how many members it has, and how long members are elected for varies from state to state. Pictured to the right is the South Carolina State House where the legislature meets. Every state has its own capitol building. Click on the link and find your state. Then click on the legislative branch link to learn more about your state legislature!

The judicial branch

Each state also has its own unique system of courts. The names of the courts, how many levels, and whether judges are appointed or elected varies by state. All states have courts that settle disputes, decide whether someone broke a state law, and allow someone convicted of a state crime to appeal to a higher court to ensure a fair trial. And the final stop within the state is always the state supreme court! Click on the link and find your state. Then click on the judicial branch link to learn more about the courts in your state!