Government of New Jersey facts for kids

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NJ State House
New Jersey's State House in Trenton, New Jersey, seen from the west

The government of the State of New Jersey is separated into three distinct branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The powers of the state are vested by the Constitution of New Jersey, enacted in 1947, in a bicameral state legislature (consisting of the General Assembly and Senate), the Governor, and the state courts, headed the New Jersey Supreme Court. The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of the state legislature, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court. Like most states, the state allows the incorporation of county, and other local municipal government.

Executive branch

Chris Christie 2011 Shankbone
Chris Christie is New Jersey's 55th Governor.

The state executive is the Governor of New Jersey. The executive branch is organized into departments, which may not number more than twenty according to the constitution; there are eighteen departments and fifty-six agencies. Temporary commissions may be allocated by law for special purposes outside of the departments.

The New Jersey Register is the official journal of state agency rulemaking containing the full text of agency proposed and adopted rules, notices of public hearings, Gubernatorial Orders, and agency notices of public interest. The New Jersey Administrative Code (N.J.A.C.) is a compilation of all rules adopted by state agencies.

Governor

The Governor of New Jersey is head of the executive branch. The office of governor is an elected position, for which elected officials serve four-year terms. Governors cannot be elected to more than two consecutive terms, but there is no limit on the total number of terms they may serve. The official residence for the governor is Drumthwacket, a mansion located in Princeton, New Jersey; the office of the governor is at the New Jersey State House in Trenton. The Governor is responsible for appointing two constitutionally created officers, the New Jersey Attorney General and the Secretary of State of New Jersey, with the approval of the senate.

Lieutenant Governor

Kim Guadagno in Hoboken
Kim Guadagno is New Jersey's first modern Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary of State.

The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey is the second highest-ranking official in the state government. The office of lieutenant governor is elected on a ticket with the governor for a four-year term concurrent with the governor. Because the position lacks distinct powers or purpose other than to exist solely as next in the order of succession, the state constitution requires that the lieutenant governor be appointed to serve as the head of a cabinet-level department or administrative agency within the Governor's administration. However, pursuant to the state constitution, a lieutenant governor cannot serve as the state's Attorney General.

Prior to 2010, New Jersey was one of a few states in the United States that did not have a Lieutenant Governor to succeed to the governorship in the event of a vacancy in that office. For most of the state's (and previously the colony's) history, a vacancy in the position of governor was filled by the president of the State Senate (called the "Legislative Council" from 1776 to 1844), or during the colonial era by the president of the royal governor's Provincial Council. After several episodes where the state had multiple "acting governors" in the span of a few years following the resignations of Governor Christine Todd Whitman in 2001 and Governor James E. McGreevey in 2004, popular sentiment and political pressure from the state's residents and news media outlets sought a permanent and tenable solution to the issue of succession when the governor's office became vacant. A 2005 referendum to amend the constitution provided for the position of lieutenant governor to be created, to change the order of succession, and that the post would be filled in next gubernatorial election (2009).

Republican Kim Guadagno is the first to serve in the post in its modern form. Guadagno, previously the sheriff in Monmouth County, was chosen by Governor Chris Christie to be his running-mate on the Republican party ticket in the 2009 election. In addition to being lieutenant governor, Guadagno serves in Governor Christie's cabinet as New Jersey's 33rd Secretary of State.

Departments

The state constitution provides that the governor appoints the heads of up to 20 principal departments. As of 2013, there are 15 cabinet-level or principal departments in the state's executive branch.

Principal department Notes Cabinet Member
Department of Agriculture
  • Department jointly managed by the Secretary of Agriculture and an 8-member State Board of Agriculture
  • Department promotes and protect state agriculture and agribusiness; oversees school meal programs, distribution of surplus food from federal programs; oversees soil and water resources; maintains farmland for agricultural uses; promotes development of overseas markets for New Jersey products from its farms and fisheries; and administers agricultural education programs.
Douglas Fisher
Department of Banking and Insurance
  • Department licenses and regulates all state-chartered financial institutions, regulates the state's insurance industry, and handles investigations and prosecutions for civil insurance fraud violations
Richard Badolato
Department of Children and Families
  • Department ensures the safety, well-being and success of children, youth, families and communities through licensing child care facilities; overseeing specialized educational services; preventing, investigating and intervening to stop child abuse and neglect, providing services for pregnant women, children's behavioral health, and welfare programs
Allison Blake
Department of Community Affairs
  • Department provides administrative guidance, financial support, and technical assistance to local governments, community development organizations, businesses and individuals to improve the quality of life in New Jersey.
  • Oversees municipality's financial integrity and solvency, statewide implementation of building codes, fire safety codes, and promote community planning and economic development
Charles Richman
Department of Corrections Gary Lanigan
Department of Education
  • Department administers state and federal aid programs affecting more than 1.4 million public and non-public elementary and secondary school children; ensures schools comply with state and federal laws and regulations; oversees pupil transportation services; directs education programs for adults and for persons who are handicapped, disadvantaged or foreign-born
Kimberley Harrington
Department of Environmental Protection
  • Department responsible for managing the state's natural resources and addressing issues related to pollution, monitors and sets standards for State's air quality and fresh, marine, ground water quality; compels environmental remediation of contaminated or polluted sites; oversees solid and hazardous waste management programs; protects and manages open space, wetlands, coastal and stream/floodplains, state parks, state forests, and protects state and private lands from wildfire; protects and manages the state's fish and wildlife resources
Bob Martin
Department of Health
  • Department records vital statistics (birth, marriages, deaths, etc.); protects the public health through regulatory compliance and community programs; evaluates and licenses health care facilities; facilitates medical research
Cathleen Bennett
Department of Human Services
  • Department serves seniors, individuals and families with low incomes; people with mental illnesses, addictions, developmental disabilities, or late-onset disabilities; people who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind; parents needing child care services, child support and/or healthcare for their children; and families facing catastrophic medical expenses for their children.
Elizabeth Connolly
Department of Labor and Workforce Development
  • Department administers state- and federal-funded job training programs, workers' compensation courts, unemployment insurance program, temporary disability insurance program, family leave insurance program, wage and hour enforcement
Aaron Fichtner
Department of Law and Public Safety
  • Department responsible for public prosecutions, protecting and safeguarding civil and consumer rights, promoting highway traffic safety, maintaining public confidence in the alcoholic beverage, gaming and racing industries and providing legal services and counsel to other state agencies; consists of the New Jersey State Police, the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, and New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell.
Christopher Porrino
Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
  • Department consists of New Jersey Army National Guard and New Jersey Air National Guard, and includes emergency services and disaster preparedness and response, and veterans affairs.
Brigadier General Michael Cunniff
Department of State
  • Oversees state archives and records management; management and certification of elections; artistic, cultural and historical programs; promotes tourism; keeper of the state's Great Seal; also nominally oversees higher education and the Sports and Exposition Authority
Kim Guadagno
Department of Transportation
  • Department oversees maintenance and operation of state's highway and public road system, planning and developing transportation policy and assisting with rail, freight and intermodal transportation issues; oversees New Jersey Transit (passenger rail, light rail, and bus)
Richard Hammer
Department of the Treasury
  • Department work to ensure the most beneficial use of fiscal resources and revenues to meet critical needs, all within a policy framework set by the governor; to formulate and manage the state's budget, generate and collect revenues, disburse the appropriations used to operate New Jersey state government, manage the state's physical and financial assets, and provide statewide support services to state and local government agencies
Ford Scudder

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