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U.S. state

A state of the United States of America is one of the fifty constituent political entities that shares its sovereignty with the United States federal government. Because of the shared sovereignty between each U.S. state and the U.S. federal government, an American is a citizen of both the federal republic and of his or her state of domicile.[1] State citizenship and residency are flexible and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons covered by certain types of court orders (e.g., paroled convicts and children of divorced spouses who are sharing custody).

States are divided into counties or county-equivalents, which may be assigned some local governmental authority but are not sovereign. County or county-equivalent structure varies widely by state. Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia use the official title of Commonwealth rather than State.

The United States Constitution allocates certain powers to the federal government. It also places limitations on the federal and state governments. State governments are allocated power by the people (of each respective state) through their individual constitutions. By ratifying the United States Constitution, the states transferred certain limited sovereign powers to the federal government. Under the Tenth Amendment, all powers not delegated to the federal government nor prohibited to the states are retained by the states or the people.

Historically, the tasks of public safety (in the sense of controlling crime), public education, public health, transportation, and infrastructure have generally been considered primarily state responsibilities, although all of these now have significant federal funding and regulation as well (based largely upon the Commerce Clause, the Taxing and Spending Clause, and the Necessary and Proper Clause of the U.S. Constitution).

Over time, the U.S. Constitution has been amended, and the interpretation and application of its provisions have changed. The general tendency has been toward centralization and incorporation, with the federal government playing a much larger role than it once did. There is a continuing debate over states' rights, which concerns the extent and nature of the states' powers and sovereignty in relation to the federal government as well as the rights of individual persons. Debates over states' rights were a contributing factor to the outbreak of the American Civil War.

The United States Congress may admit new states on an equal footing with existing ones; this last happened in 1959 with the admission of Alaska and Hawaii. The U.S. Constitution is silent on the question of whether states have the power to leave unilaterally, or secede from, the Union, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled[2][3] secession to be unconstitutional, a position driven in part by the outcome of the American Civil War.

Main article: List of U.S. states

 Alabama
 Alaska
 Arizona
 Arkansas
 California
 Colorado
 Connecticut
 Delaware
 Florida
Georgia      Hawaii
 Idaho
 Illinois
 Indiana
 Iowa
 Kansas
 Kentucky
 Louisiana
 Maine
 Maryland      Massachusetts
 Michigan
 Minnesota
 Mississippi
 Missouri
 Montana
 Nebraska
 Nevada
 New Hampshire
 New Jersey      New Mexico
 New York
 North Carolina
 North Dakota
 Ohio
 Oklahoma
 Oregon
 Pennsylvania
 Rhode Island
 South Carolina      South Dakota
 Tennessee
 Texas
 Utah
 Vermont
 Virginia
 Washington
 West Virginia
 Wisconsin
 Wyoming

Federal power

The Supreme Court of the United States has interpreted the Commerce Clause of the Constitution of the United States which has expanded the scope of federal power. The Cambridge Economic History of the United States says, "On the whole, especially after the mid-1880s, the Court construed the Commerce Clause in favor of increased federal power."[4] In Wickard v. Filburn 317 U.S. 111 (1942), the court expanded federal power to regulate the economy by holding that federal authority under the commerce clause extends to activities which are local in character.[5] For example, Congress can regulate railway traffic across state lines, but it may also regulate rail traffic solely within a state, based on the theory that wholly intrastate traffic can still have an impact on interstate commerce. In recent years, the Court has tried to place limits on the Commerce Clause in such cases as United States v. Lopez and United States v. Morrison.[clarification needed]

Another source of congressional power is its spending power—the ability of Congress to impose taxes and distribute the resulting revenue back to the states (subject to conditions set by Congress). A classic example of this is the system of federal-aid highways, which includes the Interstate Highway System. The system is mandated and largely funded by the federal government, and also serves the interests of the states. By threatening to withhold federal highway funds, Congress has been able to pressure state legislatures to pass a variety of laws. Although some object that this infringes on states' rights, the Supreme Court upheld the practice as a permissible use of the Constitution's Spending Clause in South Dakota v. Dole 483 U.S. 203 (1987).
Governments

States are free to organize their individual governments any way they like, so long as they conform to the sole requirement of the U.S. Constitution that they have "a Republican Form of Government," that is, each state government must be a republic.
Constitutions

In practice, each state has adopted a three-branch system of government (with legislative, executive, and judiciary branches) generally along the same lines as that of the federal government — though this is not a requirement.

Despite the fact that every state has chosen to follow the federal model of government, there are significant differences in some states.

There are also significant similarities. For example, all 50 states allow tax exemptions for religious institutions.[6]
Executive

In all of the U.S. states, the chief executive is called the Governor. The governor may approve or veto bills passed by the state legislature. In forty-three states, governors have line item veto power.[7]

Most states have a "plural executive" in which two or more members of the executive branch are elected directly by the people. Such additional elected officials serve as members of the executive branch, but are not beholden to the governor and the governor cannot dismiss them. For example, the attorney general is elected, rather than appointed, in 43 of the 50 U.S. states.
Legislative
See also: State legislature (United States)

The legislatures of 49 of the 50 states are made up of two chambers: a lower house (termed the House of Representatives, State Assembly or House of Delegates) and a smaller upper house, always termed the Senate. The exception is the unicameral Nebraska Legislature, which is composed of only a single chamber.

Most states have part-time legislatures, while six of the most populated states have full-time legislatures. However, several states with high population have short legislative sessions, including Texas and Florida.[8]

In Baker v. Carr (1962) and Reynolds v. Sims (1964), the U.S. Supreme Court held that all states are required to elect their legislatures in such a way as to afford each citizen the same degree of representation (the one person, one vote standard). In practice, most states choose to elect legislators from single-member districts, each of which has approximately the same population. Some states, such as Maryland and Vermont, divide the state into single- and multi-member districts, in which case multi-member districts must have proportionately larger populations, e.g., a district electing two representatives must have approximately twice the population of a district electing just one.

If the governor vetoes legislation, all legislatures may override it, usually, but not always, requiring a two-thirds majority.
Judicial
See also: State court (United States) and state supreme court

States can also organize their judicial systems differently from the federal judiciary, as long as they protect the federal constitutional right of their citizens to procedural due process. Most have a trial level court, generally called a District Court or Superior Court, a first-level appellate court, generally called a Court of Appeal (or Appeals), and a Supreme Court. However, Oklahoma and Texas have separate highest courts for criminal appeals. New York state has its own terminology, in that the trial court is called the Supreme Court. Appeals are then taken to the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, and from there to the Court of Appeals.

Most states base their legal system on English common law (with substantial indigenous changes and incorporation of certain civil law innovations), with the notable exception of Louisiana, a former French colony, which draws large parts of its legal system from French civil law.

Only a few states choose to have the judges on the state's courts serve for life terms. In most of the states the judges, including the justices of the highest court in the state, are either elected or appointed for terms of a limited number of years, such as five years, eligible for re-election or reappointment if their performance is judged to be satisfactory.
Relationships
Among states

Under Article Four of the United States Constitution, which outlines the relationship between the states, the United States Congress has the power to admit new states to the Union. The states are required to give full faith and credit to the acts of each other's legislatures and courts, which is generally held to include the recognition of legal contracts, marriages, and criminal judgments, and before 1865, slavery status. States are prohibited from discriminating against citizens of other states with respect to their basic rights, under the Privileges and Immunities Clause. Under the Extradition Clause, a state must extradite people located there who have fled charges of "treason, felony, or other crimes" in another state if the other state so demands.
With the federal government

The states are guaranteed military and civil defense by the federal government, which is also required to ensure that the government of each state remains a republic.

Four states use the official name of Commonwealth, rather than State.[9] However, this is merely a paper distinction, and the U.S. Constitution uniformly refers to all of these subnational jurisdictions as "States" (Article One, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution, concerning the U.S. House of Representatives, in which Representatives are to be elected by the people of the "States"; Article One, Section 3, Clause 1, concerning the U.S. Senate, allocates to each "State" two Senators). For all of these purposes, each of the four above-mentioned "Commonwealths" counts as a State.

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Anika Devi received her Bachelor’s degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University in 2012. She began freelancing for Business Solutions BD in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor.
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