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Government of Maryland facts for kids

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The government of Maryland is conducted according to the Maryland Constitution. The United States is a federation; consequently, the government of Maryland, like the other 49 state governments, has exclusive authority over matters that lie entirely within the state's borders, except as limited by the Constitution of the United States.

Administrative influence in Maryland is divided among three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. Unlike most other states, significant autonomy is granted to many of Maryland’s counties.

Most of the business of government is done in Annapolis, the state capital. Virtually all state and county elections are held in even-numbered years not divisible by four, in which the President of the United States is not elected—this, as in other states, is intended to divide state and federal politics.

Executive branch

The constitution establishes five principal executive branch officers, as described below. Four of them are elected statewide: the governor and lieutenant governor (who are elected on the same ticket), the attorney general, and the comptroller. The fifth, the treasurer, is elected by a joint ballot of both houses of the General Assembly.

Governor

Larry-Hogan
Governor Larry Hogan

As in all states, a popularly elected governor heads Maryland's executive branch. The governor's cabinet is known as the Executive Council. Like most state chief executives, the Maryland governor is elected to serve a four-year term. He or she is term limited to serve no more than two consecutive terms. The Governor is elected under the plurality system. The current governor is Larry Hogan.

The governor has power to veto laws passed by the state's legislature and, like most of the nation's governors, also has a line item veto, which can be used to strike certain portions of appropriations bills. The state legislature can override a veto by a three-fifths (60%) vote of the total number of members in each house. This is different from most states, which usually require a higher two-thirds (66.66%) vote to override a veto.

The appointment powers of the governor are extensive, as he or she appoints almost all military and civil officers of the State subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. In addition to appointing the heads of major departments, boards, and commissions of the State government, the Governor appoints certain boards and commissions in each county and the City of Baltimore, as provided for by law. The Governor also commissions notaries public and appoints persons to fill vacancies in the offices of Attorney General and Comptroller (both of which are normally elected by the people) and also to fill vacant seats in the General Assembly. Any officer appointed by the Governor (except interim members of the General Assembly) is removable by him or her for cause.

The governor is commander-in-chief of the military forces of the State, the Maryland National Guard, except when such forces are called into the national service by the President of the United States, as well as the Maryland Defense Force. In times of public emergency the Governor has certain emergency powers as defined by law.

Lieutenant Governor

Boyd Rutherford
Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford

The Maryland Lieutenant Governor is elected on the same ticket as the state's Governor and is nominally the second highest-ranking official in the state. The position was first created by the short-lived Maryland Constitution of 1864 and functioned from 1865 to 1868 before being abolished by the state's present constitution, which was ratified in 1867. The position was re-established by Constitutional amendment in 1970, under which the Lieutenant Governor "shall have only the duties delegated to him by the Governor."

The Maryland Lieutenant Governor, currently Boyd Rutherford, is therefore weaker than the office in most other states which have one (several states do not have one). For instance, in many states, including Texas, the Lieutenant Governor is the President of the State's Senate and in California the Lieutenant Governor assumes all of the Governor's powers when he or she is out of the state. In both of those states, as in some others, the Lieutenant Governor is elected in his or her own right, independently of the state's Governor.

In practice, Maryland's Lieutenant Governor attends cabinet meetings, chairs various task forces and commissions, represents the state at ceremonial functions and at events which the Governor cannot attend, and advises the Governor. If there is a vacancy in the office of the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor becomes the Governor. A vacancy in the Lieutenant Governorship is filled by a person nominated by the Governor and confirmed by a majority vote of the General Assembly voting in joint session.

Attorney General

Brian E. Frosh 2015
Attorney General Brian Frosh

The Attorney General is the chief legal officer of the State and is elected by the people every four years with no term limits. To run for the office a person must be a citizen of and qualified voter in Maryland and must have resided and practiced law in the state for at least ten years. The current attorney general is Brian Frosh.

The Attorney General has general charge, supervision and direction of the legal business of the State. He or she is the legal advisor and representative of the Governor, the General Assembly, the Judiciary, and the major departments, various boards, commissions, officials and institutions of State Government. The Office further represents the State in all cases pending in the Appellate Courts of the State, and in the United States Supreme Court and lower Federal Courts. This has led to significant conflict when the Attorney General and Governor have strongly differing views.

Comptroller

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Comptroller Peter Franchot

The Comptroller is the state's chief financial officer and is also elected by the people for a four-year term. The comptroller is not term-limited. The office was established by the Maryland Constitution of 1851 due to concern about the potential for fraud and corruption in the administration of the public treasury. The constitutional duties of the office begin with the broad mandate to exercise "general superintendence of the fiscal affairs of the State", which includes collecting taxes and maintaining the general ledger. The Comptroller (or a deputy) countersigns all checks drawn by the State Treasurer upon the deposits of the State. The Comptroller also prescribes the formalities for transfer of other evidence of State debt and countersigns such papers. The current comptroller is Peter Franchot.

In addition, the comptroller's office audits taxpayers for compliance, handles delinquent tax collection, and enforces license and unclaimed property laws. The agency publicizes forgotten bank accounts, insurance benefits and other unclaimed assets of taxpayers. Acting as Maryland's chief accountant, the comptroller pays the state's bills, maintains its books, prepares financial reports, and pays state employees.

Treasurer

The Treasurer, currently Nancy K. Kopp, is the principal custodian of the State's cash deposits, money from bond sales, and other securities and collateral and directs the investments of those assets. The Treasurer is elected by a joint ballot of both houses of the General Assembly, a tradition begun starting with the Maryland Constitution of 1851, which also created the Board of Public Works (see below).

Because of the close relationship with the General Assembly, the Treasurer briefs the members of the Legislature on matters concerning the State Treasury. The Treasurer is also responsible for producing an annual report to provide the Governor, the General Assembly, and the public with current information about the operations of the State Treasurer's Office.

The State Board of Public Works was first created by the Maryland Constitution of 1864 and is composed of the Governor, who chairs it, the Comptroller, and the Treasurer. The three-member board is quite powerful and there is no other state that has a similar institution. The board, which generally meets twice a month, reviews and approves capital projects, procurement contracts, and the acquisition, use, and transfer of State assets, to assure that executive decisions are made responsibly and responsively.

Other

  • The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) oversees food safety, consumer protection, farmering, food and fiber processing, and other businesses engaged in agricultural related operations.
  • The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) oversees public school districts.
  • The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is the environmental protection agency.
  • The Maryland Department of General Services (DGS) manages, operates, and maintains state property and acts as a primary procurement agency.
  • The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) oversees and regulates health-related issues.
  • The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) oversees housing policy.
  • The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) oversees unemployment insurance, occupational and professional licensing, labor regulation, workforce training, financial regulation, and the Maryland Racing Commission.
  • The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) maintains natural resources such as state parks, public lands, state forests, state waterways, wildlife and recreation areas.
  • The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) oversees the Maryland Transportation Authority, Maryland Transit Administration, Maryland Port Administration, State Highway Administration, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, and Maryland Aviation Administration.
  • The Maryland State Archives serves as the central depository for government records of permanent value.

Maryland and the national government

See also: United States Congressional Delegations from Maryland

Maryland was the seventh state to ratify the United States Constitution, on April 28, 1788. Maryland elects two United States Senators and eight members of the United States House of Representatives. The state is served by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (with two divisions, sitting in Baltimore and Greenbelt) and federal appeals from the state go to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia.

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