Comparison of U.S. state governments
In the United States, the government of each of the 50 states is structured in accordance with its individual constitution. In turn, each state constitution must be grounded in republican principles. Article IV, Section 4, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution tasks the federal government with assuring that each state’s government is so organized.
All state governments are modeled after the federal government and consist of three branches (although the three-branch structure is not Constitutionally required): executive, legislative, and judicial. All state governments are also organized as presidential systems where the governor is both head of government and head of state (even though this too is not required). The government of each of the five permanently inhabited U.S. territories is modeled and organized in a like fashion.
Each state is itself a sovereign entity, and as such, reserves the right to organize in any way (within the above stated parameter) deemed appropriate by its people. As a result, while the governments of the various states share many similar features, they often vary greatly with regard to form and substance. No two state governments are identical. The following tables compare and contrast some of the features of U.S. state, and territorial governments, and also the government of the District of Columbia, its capital city.
With the exception of Nebraska, all American state legislatures are bicameral, meaning there is one legislative body separated into two units. Nebraska eliminated its lower house with a referendum during the 1936 elections. Also, some systems, such as New York's, have two legislative bodies while never technically referring to them in the state constitution as a single body. These dual systems are generally considered bicameral.
The following table compares common legislative features of each state, the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories.
While only 13 states have a filibuster, there are often restrictions on the majority a state needs to raise taxes.
|Alabama||The Alabama State Senate allows a filibuster, and has a general three-fifths requirement to enact cloture. A simple majority of 18 is acceptable when dealing with the budget and redistricting.|
|Arkansas||Arkansas, along with Rhode Island, is one of the only states that requires a supermajority to pass a budget. A three-fourths majority is required for appropriations, except for education, highways, and paying down the state debt, which require a simple majority.|
|California||From 1933-2011 there was a two-thirds requirement for general fund appropriations for purposes other than public schools (Const., Art. IV, Sec. 12). Because the Legislature typically passes one main budget bill, the requirement effectively applied to the whole budget bill. There has been a two-thirds requirement for tax increases since Proposition 13 in 1978. In 2010, voters approved Proposition 25, eliminating the 2/3 requirement for the budget, but keeping it for tax increases.|
The Governor is the chief executive official in all states. D.C. has a mayor which serves executive functions in the District, although constitutionally it is controlled by Congress.
|State||Governor term length||Governor term limit||Lieutenant Governor||First in line of succession|
|Alabama||Four years||Two consecutive terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Alaska||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Arizona||Four years||Two consecutive terms[note 3]||No||Secretary of State|
|Arkansas||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|California||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Colorado||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Connecticut||Four years||None||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Delaware||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|District of Columbia||Mayor: Four years||Mayor: None||No||District of Columbia Council Chairman|
|Florida||Four years||Two consecutive terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Georgia||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Hawaii||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Idaho||Four years||None||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Illinois||Four years||None||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Indiana||Four years||Two terms in a 12-year period[note 4]||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Iowa||Four years||None||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Kansas||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Kentucky||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Louisiana||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Maine||Four years||Two terms||No||President of the Senate|
|Maryland||Four years||Two consecutive terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Massachusetts||Four years||None||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Michigan||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Minnesota||Four years||None||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Mississippi||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Missouri||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Montana||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Nebraska||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Nevada||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|New Hampshire||Two years||None||No||President of the Senate|
|New Jersey||Four years||Two terms||Yes[note 5]||Lieutenant Governor|
|New Mexico||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|New York||Four years||None||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|North Carolina||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|North Dakota||Four years||None||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Ohio||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Oklahoma||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Oregon||Four years||Two consecutive terms||No||Secretary of State|
|Pennsylvania||Four years||Two consecutive terms[note 6]||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Puerto Rico||Four years||None||No||Secretary of State|
|Rhode Island||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|South Carolina||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|South Dakota||Four years||Two terms||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Tennessee||Four years||Two terms||Yes[note 7]||President of the Senate|
|Texas||Four years||None||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Utah||Four years||None||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Vermont||Two years||None||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Virginia||Four years||No limit on number, but terms cannot be consecutive||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Washington||Four years||None||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|West Virginia||Four years||Two terms||Yes[note 8]||President of the Senate|
|Wisconsin||Four years||None||Yes||Lieutenant Governor|
|Wyoming||Four years||Two terms||No||Secretary of State|
Note: Table does not distinguish between consecutive term limits and total term limits, unless otherwise noted.
|State||Highest court||High court seats||High court term||High court judicial placement method||Mandatory retirement age[note 9]|
|Alabama||Supreme Court of Alabama||9||6 years||Partisan election|
|Alaska||Alaska Supreme Court||5||10 years||Missouri Plan|
|Arizona||Arizona Supreme Court||5||6 years||Missouri Plan||70|
|Arkansas||Arkansas Supreme Court||7||8 years||Non-partisan election|
|California||Supreme Court of California||7||12 years||Missouri Plan|
|Colorado||Colorado Supreme Court||7||10 years||Missouri Plan|
|Connecticut||Connecticut Supreme Court||7||8 years||Election by the state legislature||70|
|Delaware||Delaware Supreme Court||5||12 years||Appointment by governor|
|Florida||Florida Supreme Court||7||6 years||Modified Missouri Plan||70 (or end of current term)|
|Georgia||Supreme Court of Georgia||7||6 years||Non-partisan election|
|Hawaii||Supreme Court of Hawaii||5||10 years||Appointment by the Governor||70|
|Idaho||Idaho Supreme Court||5||6 years||Non-partisan election|
|Illinois||Supreme Court of Illinois||7||10 years||Partisan election|
|Indiana||Supreme Court of Indiana||5||10 years[note 10]||Missouri Plan||75[note 11]|
|Iowa||Iowa Supreme Court||7||8 years||Missouri Plan||72|
|Kansas||Kansas Supreme Court||7||6 years||Missouri Plan||70 (or end of current term)|
|Kentucky||Kentucky Supreme Court||7||8 years||Non-partisan election|
|Louisiana||Supreme Court of Louisiana||7||10 years||Partisan election|
|Maine||Maine Supreme Judicial Court||7||7 years||Appointment by the Governor|
|Maryland||Maryland Court of Appeals||7||10 years||Appointment by the Governor||70|
|Massachusetts||Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court||7||Lifetime||Appointment by the Governor||70|
|Michigan||Michigan Supreme Court||7||8 years||Non-partisan election[note 12]||Must be under 70 at time of election|
|Minnesota||Minnesota Supreme Court||7||6 years||Non-partisan election||70|
|Mississippi||Supreme Court of Mississippi||9||8 years||Non-partisan election|
|Missouri||Supreme Court of Missouri||7||12 years||Missouri Plan|
|Montana||Montana Supreme Court||7||8 years||Non-partisan election|
|Nebraska||Nebraska Supreme Court||7||6 years||Missouri Plan|
|Nevada||Supreme Court of Nevada||7||6 years||Non-partisan election|
|New Hampshire||New Hampshire Supreme Court||5||Lifetime||Appointment by Governor||70|
|New Jersey||New Jersey Supreme Court||7||7 years||Appointment by Governor||70|
|New Mexico||New Mexico Supreme Court||5||8 years||Partisan election/Retention election|
|New York||New York Court of Appeals||7||14 years||Appointed by the Governor||70 (at end of calendar year)|
|North Carolina||North Carolina Supreme Court||7||8 years||Non-partisan election|
|North Dakota||North Dakota Supreme Court||5||10 years||Non-partisan election|
|Ohio||Ohio Supreme Court||7||6 years||Non-partisan election||70 (at end of term)|
|Oklahoma||Oklahoma Supreme Court
Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals
|Supreme Court: 9
Court of Criminal Appeals: 5
|6 years (both)||Missouri Plan|
|Oregon||Oregon Supreme Court||7||6 years||Non-partisan election||75|
|Pennsylvania||Supreme Court of Pennsylvania||7||10 years||Partisan election||78|
|Puerto Rico||Supreme Court of Puerto Rico||9||Lifetime||Appointment by the Governor with confirmation by the Senate||70|
|Rhode Island||Rhode Island Supreme Court||5||Lifetime||Modified Missouri Plan||None|
|South Carolina||South Carolina Supreme Court||5||10 years||Election by State Legislature||72|
|South Dakota||South Dakota Supreme Court||5||8 years||Non-partisan election|
|Tennessee||Tennessee Supreme Court||5||8 years||Tennessee Plan (Modified Missouri Plan)|
|Texas||Texas Supreme Court
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
|9 (both)||6 years (both)||Partisan election||75 (may finish term or 4 years of term, whichever is shorter)|
|Utah||Utah Supreme Court||5||4 years||Missouri Plan|
|Vermont||Vermont Supreme Court||5||6 years||Election by State Legislature|
|Virginia||Supreme Court of Virginia||7||12 years||Election by State Legislature||70|
|Washington||Washington Supreme Court||9||6 years||Non-partisan election||75|
|West Virginia||Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia||5||12 years||Partisan election|
|Wisconsin||Wisconsin Supreme Court||7||10 years||Non-partisan election|
|Wyoming||Wyoming Supreme Court||5||8 years||Missouri Plan|
Note: Table does not distinguish between term lengths that result in a new election and term lengths that result in a retention vote but not a full election.
- List of U.S. state constitutions
- Initiatives and referendums in the United States — compares states on what they allow
- State representatives were limited to three terms (6 years) until term limits were repealed by Oregon Ballot Measure 3 (1992).
- State senators were limited to two terms (8 years) until term limits were repealed by Oregon Ballot Measure 3 (1992).
- Governor may serve unlimited terms but only two in a row.
- Governors of Indiana may serve an unlimited number of terms, but may only serve for eight years in any twelve-year period. (Constitution of Indiana Article 5)
- Office created in 2005 and implemented in 2009
- There are no limits on the number of terms a governor may serve in total as long as there is a four-year break after a second term.
- The President of the Senate is also the Lieutenant Governor.
- The President of the Senate is also the Lieutenant Governor.
- Uncompleted entries do not indicate the lack of a retirement age, only a lack of data in this article. States without a mandatory retirement age will indicate "None".
- Retention election held after two years of service. Mandatory retirement at age 75.
- The Indiana retirement age is the same regardless of the length of the Justice's remaining term.
- While Michigan law stipulates that State Supreme Court judges be listed on the "non-partisan" section on the ballot, only candidates who have been nominated by political parties with ballot access at their respective state conventions are allowed to stand in the succeeding general election. Subsequently, each party is only allowed to nominate as many candidates as there are supreme court seats up for election in a given year.
- Natelson, Robert G. "Essays on Article IV: Guarantee Clause". The Heritage Foundation.
- "State & Local Government". whitehouse.gov. The White House.
- "Frequently Asked Questions About the Minnesota Legislature". Minnesota State Legislature.
- De Groot, Daniel. "36 State Senates preclude the possibility of filibuster". Retrieved June 26, 2013.
- The new limit was decided by referendum as Proposition 28, on June 2012. Between 1990 to that date, one could serve 3 terms in the House and 2 in the Senate, which means the new limit is globally earlier but roughly doubles in each body.
- Arizona Constitution, Art. 4, Part 2, Sec. 21
- Missouri Constitution, Art. III, Sec. 8
- Judgepedia.org, Connecticut Supreme Court, found here.
- Refers to initial "probation" period. If the governor reappoints them (almost universally true) they then serve for life
- Linda Greenhouse, "The Case for Term Limits on the Supreme Court with Linda Greenhouse", Yale Political Union, May 28, 2009, 
- Aaron Applegate, Mike Saewitz, "Bill seeks to raise mandatory retirement age for judges to 73", The Virginian-Pilot, February 4, 2010, 
- National Conference of State Legislatures Term Limit Chart
- Term Limits.Org, Term limit data for AZ AR CA CO FL LA MA MI MO MT NB NV OH OK SD WY , Accessed on June 27, 2009.
- Little, Thomas H. The legislative branch of state government: people, process, and politics. ISBN 1-85109-761-9.