Pennsylvania is one of four states in the nation officially designated commonwealths (the others are Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Virginia). Pennsylvania has had four constitutions. The present one, which became effective in 1874, was substantially revised during 1967 and 1968. An amendment to the constitution may be proposed by the state legislature. After a majority of the legislature approves the proposal in two consecutive sessions, it is submitted to the people for ratification in a general election.
The executive branch of government is headed by the governor, who is elected for a four-year term. A governor may be reelected for one additional term. Also elected for four years are the lieutenant governor, state treasurer, attorney general, and auditor general. The governor, usually with the consent of the state senate, appoints the heads of numerous state departments and the members of various boards and commissions.
The legislative branch, called the General Assembly, meets each year on the first Tuesday in January. It consists of a Senate of 50 members and a House of Representatives of 203 members. The senators are elected for four years and the representatives for two years.
The state judiciary consists of a Supreme Court of seven justices, a superior court of ten, and commonwealth courts. All judges in the courts are elected for ten-year terms. On the local level there are judicial districts, usually corresponding with counties, and a variety of lower courts.
The 67 counties of Pennsylvania make up the basic local units of government.
Most counties are governed by a three-member Board of County Commissioners, who are each elected for four years. Various other county officials also are elected. A few counties have adopted an executive form of government. Below the county level the state is divided into cities, boroughs, and townships. The 52 cities each have a population of at least 10,000 people and are governed by a mayor and a city council, elected for four years. In Philadelphia, which in 1854 expanded to include the whole of Philadelphia County, the city government has replaced the former county government.
By Pennsylvania law, a borough may become a city when it has reached a population of 10,000, but many eligible boroughs have not made this change because it requires a more expensive form of government. There are nearly 970 boroughs in the state, most of which are small urban communities. Boroughs are governed by mayors and councils, both elected for terms of four years. Some boroughs and townships have professional managers.
About 1550 townships cover most of the state’s land area and provide local government in suburban and rural areas. First-class townships are governed by township commissioners. Second-class townships are governed by township supervisors. The state has only one town, Bloomsburg, which received its special status by an act of the legislature. Pennsylvania elects two United States senators and 19 members of the United States House of Representatives. It has 21 electoral votes. "Pennsylvania" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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