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Question

Q61: How can you find out who your state governor is?

A. Write to the president. 
B. Visit your state’s website.
C. Write to your congressman. 
D. Visit your local library. 

Question Background Information

Background

States had their own constitutions even before they made the U.S. Constitution. They had their own legislatures, executive branches, judicial systems, and often bills of rights. In fact, they still have all these today. Some states have wanted stronger governors with more discretion; others want to make sure the legislature is more firmly in charge. Since, with a few exceptions, the Constitution preserves the right and ability of the states to organize their own affairs, states largely have the authority to determine what powers their legislature or governor will have.

In general, though, all governors have similar responsibilities and powers at the state level as the president does at the federal level. For example, all governors are responsible for executing the laws of their states.

They also have the power to either sign or veto bills, though some can be overridden more easily than others, even by bare majorities in some cases. Most governors can veto individual appropriations (expenditures of state money); this is called a line-item veto and is something which the president cannot do for federal budgets. Some states’ governors have a so-called “amendatory veto” in which the governor can propose amendments to bills sent to their desk.

Governors are also responsible for signing the state’s budget, acting as Commander-in-Chief of the state’s militia (or National Guard), and granting pardons (the forgiveness of criminal sentences) for state convictions.

State constitutions create important differences among state governors. Among the differences are minimum qualifications for office, term limits, and how the lieutenant governor or other successor is chosen. Perhaps most importantly, there is a difference in how other executive branch officials (like the state treasurer or state superintendent of schools), akin to the federal Cabinet, gain office. In some states, these individuals are appointed by governors with or without legislative consent, prioritizing efficiency in state government. In other states—that want to distribute power more broadly—these individuals run separately from the governor in their own elections.

Additional Content

Offline Activity

Introduction

While there are many commonalities—all states have a governor, practice the separation of powers, etc., state constitutions are diverse, varying in the rights they include and the institutions they build. (Part of that commonality is, of course, because the federal government guarantees ‘to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government” in Article IV, Section 4.)  In this exercise, students will read a short handout on the powers of state governors in general, and then look at excerpts from five state constitutions’ sections on executive power focusing on the governors’ terms of office, veto powers, and the relationship between the governor and other executive branch officials like the state treasurer. (As this is already a challenging exercise, provisions relating to “pocket vetoes,” in which governors can effectively veto a bill by doing nothing at the end of a legislative session, are omitted.) 

Preparation

Several states (Arizona, Indiana, New Hampshire, Texas, and Virginia) have been chosen as examples due to their institutional variation. If your state is not one of those, you might consult your own state constitution online to help prepare a similar document ahead of time. You will want to look up your state governor to help students answer that question on the civics test as well.

An answer key is provided. 

Required files 


The Teaching Materials for this exercise includes an answer key.

Teaching Materials.

Instructions

  1. This activity works well as an individual assignment. However, depending on the age and/or skill level of the students, you may want to have them work in larger groups. 
    • If that is the case, divide the class into pairs based on the students’ individual levels. Group A is the group that needs some extra support. Group B is the core group that has the core knowledge to complete the activity. Group C is the enrichment group that has mastered the material; Group C students are prepared to extend their knowledge. 
      • When using pairs, assign those who need support (Group A) with those who have core knowledge and/or have mastered the material (Groups B and C). 
      • Groups of three or more should have at least one student from each group. 
  2. Explain to each student that they will be looking at the powers of the executive branch, in state constitutions. You can assign each student or pair one constitution, or depending on the level of the class, you might instead want each individual or group doing multiple constitutions, up to four. 
  3. Give each student a copy of the State Governor's handout (worksheet) and each student or group the State Constitutions text. You might also provide a copy of the Introduction to Federalism and State Constitutions beforehand and have the students read that first. 
  4. Have the students fill out the worksheet.
  5. Circulate throughout the room to help students as needed. 
  6. Once everyone is finished, have the students describe the differences they identified in their respective constitutions (you can write them up on the board).
  7. You can use this activity as a springboard into a class discussion once the students have finished.
    • Once you have identified the different features of the various governorships, you can have the students discuss which versions they prefer and why (e.g. do they think a 2 or 4 year term for governor is better, or that a term limit is a good idea, etc.) 
    • You might consider having them vote on the version of each they think best, or alternatively, if your state’s governorship is in the list, whether they prefer your own state’s version or another’s. 

Discussion Prompts

Below are two discussion prompts that can be used by teachers in a classroom setting. 

  • The first discussion prompt will be one that is designed to support students that are not really understanding the content in a way that would help them to answer the test question. 
  • The second discussion prompt will be one that is designed to further student understanding of the content by making real-world connections, including connections to current events and historical events.

Background 

Every state today has a similar structure to the federal government, with a state constitution, a legislature making laws to govern the state, an executive enforcing those state laws, and a judicial branch resolving legal disputes. One important difference is that the head of the state’s executive branch is called the Governor. The Governor’s state level powers are broadly similar to those wielded by the President, so it is important to know your state’s Governor.

Prompt 1

Every state has a governor as part of its state’s government. How can you find out who your state governor is? What do you know about the office and your state’s current governor? If you are not familiar with him or her, how can you learn more?

Prompt 2

The job of the state governor appears to be similar to that of the president. Why do we want each state to have a governor, instead of just having the president? Use current and past events to support your answer.

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