Maine has one of the oldest state constitutions still in effect in the United States. It became effective in 1819, when Maine was admitted to the Union. It has frequently been amended, but this has not changed the basic structure of the state government.
The executive branch of Maine’s government is headed by a governor, who is elected by popular vote. In 1957 a constitutional amendment was passed extending the governor’s term of office from two to four years. The governor is the only publicly elected executive officer. The governor is succeeded by the state senate president in the case of death or removal from office. The secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, and auditor are chosen by the legislature. The heads of most of the other state departments and commissions are appointed by the governor. Until 1976, Maine also had an executive council, which acted with the governor on pardons, confirmed appointments, and had authority over many minor administrative matters.
The executive council was a feature of government found in only two other states, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The seven members of the council were elected every two years by the legislature. They met, usually twice a month, to advise the governor.
Maine has a bicameral legislature, consisting of a 35-member Senate and a 151-member House of Representatives. All delegates are popularly elected in even-numbered years for two-year terms. Both houses meet in regular session in January of every year and in occasional special sessions called by the governor.
Senators and representatives are chosen on the basis of population, and both are elected from single-member districts. Bills may originate in either the senate or the house of representatives, but all proposals for raising revenue must come from the house. A two-thirds majority in both houses is required to override a governor’s veto of any bill.
The supreme judicial court, consisting of a chief justice and six associate justices, is the state’s highest court. It is the appeals court for all major civil and criminal cases. The next highest court is the superior court, which has original jurisdiction over all major criminal and civil cases and also hears appeals from lower courts. It is the only court in the state that handles cases requiring trial by jury. The justices of the superior court are assigned by the chief justice of the supreme judicial court to preside over cases in the various counties, one judge to a county for a specified term. Below the superior court are the district courts, which have replaced the municipal courts and trial justice courts.
District courts have jurisdiction over divorce suits, minor criminal and civil cases, and juvenile offenders. Probate courts have jurisdiction over all matters concerning wills and estates and the adoption of children. Probate court judges are elected by popular vote in each county for four-year terms. The governor appoints all other judges to seven-year terms with executive council approval.
Each county elects three commissioners and an attorney, a sheriff, and a treasurer. Cities are governed by a manager and city council or by a mayor and city council. Most towns have a board of selectmen, a tax collector, town clerk, treasurer, assessor, a school board, and road commissioner. These officials are elected at an annual town meeting, in which all the voters participate and decide on such matters as taxes and appropriations for the year. A growing number of towns are turning to councils and town managers as more effective means of government. Maine sends two members to the U.S. House of Representatives and two members to the U.S. Senate, giving the state a total of four electoral votes. "Maine" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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