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The Government of the State of Georgia

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The state of Georgia, like all U.S. states, maintains its own government. In this lesson, we'll check out the design of this government, and see how it works.

The Government of Georgia

Like all U.S. states, Georgia has its own state constitution. In Georgia's case, however, this actually predates the Unites States Constitution. Georgia wrote its first state constitution all the way back in 1777, just after the American Revolution had begun. At the same time, Georgia has written more constitutions than nearly any other state. In fact, the current state constitution is the tenth to outline Georgia's government. That's a lot, and it demonstrates the continually changing role that Georgia has played in American history.

The flag of Georgia
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The Executive Branch

So, what does Georgia's government look like? Like the national government, Georgia divides power between three branches of government, each with its own powers. Let's start with the executive. The executive branch is in charge of enforcing the laws of the state, as well as issue of daily administration. The person at the top of this branch is the governor, who is basically like the president of Georgia.

The governor has a range of powers, but the most significant may be the power to appoint people throughout the state bureaucracy. Each of these people heads one of the many government agencies that oversee the allocation of resources and implementation of laws. As far as the governor's budget goes, the state breaks all of this into seven administrative departments: education, transportation, health care, natural resources, public safety, economic development, and general government.

The State Capitol, where the government of Georgia meets
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The Legislative Branch

The executive branch enforces the laws, but who actually makes them? That responsibility falls to the legislative branch. In Georgia, the legislature is known as the Georgia General Assembly. This is where laws are introduced, debated, and passed. Like the US Congress, the General Assembly is divided into two houses. The House of Representatives contains 180 elected legislators from the various districts of Georgia, while the Senate has 56 members. All legislators are elected for terms of 2 years. Georgia has long been a state with strong political affiliation, and that shows in the legislature. For most of the state's history, the voters elected Democrats to nearly every seat in the legislature (although that was a very different Democratic Party than the one we know today). Today, the Republicans exercise a great amount of control over the General Assembly.

One thing that makes the Georgia General Assembly interesting is its focus on committees. When a law is introduced into the General Assembly, it doesn't go straight to the floor for debate. It goes to the committee that specializes in that sort of law. Some committees are filled with experts on agriculture, others on industry, others on natural resources, etc. The committee system is meant to ensure that laws are approved by those most qualified to understand them, and every legislator is required to serve in 2-3 committees. It's only after the committee approves that a law goes to the floor, so most lawmaking in Georgia happens at the committee level.

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