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Constitution of Massachusetts


Capitol of Massachusetts
Capitol of Massachusetts

Massachusetts still operates under its original constitution, although this document has frequently been amended. It was drawn up for the new state by John Adams and was ratified in 1780. The document bears many similarities to the federal Constitution, providing for individual liberties and a definite separation of powers among the different divisions of government.

Executive power


The governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of the commonwealth, treasurer, auditor, and attorney general are each elected for a four-year term. An unusual feature of the state’s government is the governor’s executive council, which consists of the lieutenant governor and eight elected councilors. It must give its consent to judicial appointments made by the governor. It also considers pardons for criminals.

Legislative and Judiciary


The Massachusetts legislature, known as the General Court, consists of a 40-member Senate and a 160-member House of Representatives. All members of the General Court are elected every two years. The General Court meets every year.

The state’s highest court is the supreme judicial court, consisting of a chief justice and six associate justices. It handles appeals from lower courts and has original jurisdiction in some equity matters. Other tribunals are the appeals courts, with 14 judges, and the trial courts. Lower courts include municipal and probate courts. The land court of Massachusetts rules on all real estate matters. Judges of the three courts are appointed by the governor with the consent of the executive council and serve until the age of 70.

Local government


Massachusetts has 14 counties. Some have county governments that are administered by elected commissioners, while the remainder rely on state and local or regional agencies to provide the functions of a county government. The counties cannot levy taxes. Of the 351 municipalities in Massachusetts, 39 are cities and 312 are towns. The freedom to choose to be either a city or a town has led to some anomalies. Two cities with populations under 20,000 inhabitants in 1990 are North Adams and Newbury Port, while the two largest towns are Framingham (64,989) and Weymouth (54,063). Cities are administered by mayors and councils, councils and city managers, or commissions.

Many small towns use the town meeting form of government. In the town meeting, every voter may express his or her views and vote on town matters. Some larger towns use the representative town meeting. Under this procedure, 200 to 300 citizens elected to represent precincts within the town meet and vote in town meeting fashion. Most towns are administered by elected selectmen. "Massachusetts" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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