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Legislative Advocacy

Basics: Government


The framers of the United States Constitution envisioned a system of government where no one individual or group of individuals had too much power. Therefore they created a federal government with three branches (executive, legislative and judicial) and divided power among the branches to provide for a system of checks and balances. For example, the Congress can pass a piece of legislation but in order for the legislation to become law the President must sign it. The President can choose to veto, or reject, a piece of legislation but the Congress can override a Presidential veto with a two-thirds majority.

The framers further provided checks and balances by granting some powers to the federal government (i.e. national security and international treaties) and others to individual state governments (i.e. primary and secondary education). The interaction of state and federal (as well as local) governments requires elected officials to be more attentive to the constituents, thereby increasing accountability.

Political parties, which were not originally part of the system that the framers established, provide additional checks and balances due to the ideological difference between and among the various parties. In the United States, the two-party system is very strong and provides significant stability to our overarching political system.

The system of government devised by the framers of the Constitution has been adopted by many state and local governments (with some exceptions), as well as internationally.

Federal Government

Executive Branch - The President is at the top of the Executive Branch of the federal government that consists of:

  • Executive Office of the President - (i.e., Office of Management & Budget)
  • 15 Executive Departments - (i.e., Education)
  • 61 Independent Agencies and Government Corporations
  • Various Boards, Commissions and Committees

Legislative Branch - Congress is the body that passes federal legislation and consists of:

  • Senate - 100 members (two from each state)
  • House of Representatives - 435 members (distributed based on population)
  • Agencies that support Congress - (i.e., Congressional Budget Office)

Judicial Branch - The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and governs the entire federal court system that consists of:

  • Supreme Court - 9 members
  • Court of Appeals - 12 regional circuits
  • District Court - 94 districts
  • Bankruptcy Courts - 94 courts
  • Specialty Courts

State Government

Executive Branch - The Governor is at the top of the Executive Branch for state government that includes:

  • Office of the Governor - (and Lt. Governor)
  • 23 Executive Departments - (i.e., Commerce)
  • Boards and Commissions - (i.e., Board of Regents)
  • Statewide Elected Officials - Attorney General, Auditor, Secretary of State & Treasurer

Legislative Branch - The Ohio General Assembly is the body that passes state legislation and consists of:

  • Senate - 33 members (distributed based on population)
  • House of Representatives - 99 members (distributed based on population)
  • Agencies that support the legislature - (i.e., Legislative Service Commission)

Judicial Branch - The Ohio Supreme Court is the highest court in Ohio and governs the entire state court system that consists of:

  • Ohio Supreme Court - 7 members
  • Courts of Appeals - 12 courts, 68 judges (three judge panels)
  • Courts of Common Pleas - 88 courts, 386 judges

Local Government

County Government - Counties are the major political subdivision of the state, for two reasons. First, counties are pervasive - every bit of territory within Ohio is in a county, and all residents of Ohio live in a county. Second, counties administer such important state-required functions as systems of justice, human services, land recording, property taxes and elections. Counties possess police power, which gives them authority to regulate land use, sanitation, building construction, etc. State government mandates many of the functions of county government.

Municipal Government - The Ohio Constitution gives all municipalities home rule. This means that cities and villages may adapt laws for purposes of local self-government that are not specifically forbidden by or in conflict with general law. By way of contrast, counties and townships may perform only those functions that are specifically permitted by state law, unless they adopt, by vote of their citizens, an alternate or charter form of government.

Municipalities may choose from three different types of government - general statutory law, one of three optional statutory laws or charter. The optional plans and the charter require approval by vote of the citizens. Municipalities are classified as either villages (under five thousand population) or cities (five thousand and over).

Township Government - Township trustees are the executive officers of the township. They are responsible for appropriating township funds, and they are the township taxing and purchasing authority. They hold title to and are responsible for the physical property of the township. They may own such facilities as parks, cemeteries and hospitals. These may be owned by a single township, or in conjunction with other townships and/or municipalities.

Key Branches of Government-related Websites

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