What is the role of state constitutions in state governments?  

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The role of state constitutions is to develop the plan of government a state will have. Some of the ideas a state constitution will explain include what the role of legislative branch will be, how many houses will comprise the legislative branch, how long an elected term of office lasts,...

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The role of state constitutions is to develop the plan of government a state will have. Some of the ideas a state constitution will explain include what the role of legislative branch will be, how many houses will comprise the legislative branch, how long an elected term of office lasts, and if term limits exist.

The constitution will also explain the structure and the role of the executive branch. Some state constitutions, such as Wisconsin’s constitution, give the governor broad veto powers by allowing the governor to cross out letters, words, numbers, or specific lines in a proposed budget. Other state constitutions more strictly limit what the governor can do.

The role of the judicial branch is also explained and identified in the state constitution. It will say what cases a state court can hear and establish the process for bringing a case into the court system.

The state constitution determines the structure of state government and what it may and may not do. It should be noted that state constitutions may not violate the Constitution of the United States.

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In any government, the role of the constitution is to set out the structure of the government.  It tells us what the parts of government are and what powers they have.  This is the function of state constitutions in a state government.

The Constitution of the United States guarantees that each state will have a republican form of government.  Beyond that, however, it does not tell the states how to set up this republican government. Therefore, the states have to have constitutions that set out exactly how their state government will work.  For example, it has to say how many houses its legislature will have and how long legislators’ terms will be.

The state constitutions also set out other rules.  For example, most state constitutions specify that their state governments have to have a balanced budget every year.  State constitutions can also outline rights that are granted to or denied to their citizens, so long as they do not violate the US Constitution.  Therefore, a state constitution may guarantee its citizens the right to a free public education.  It may also specify whether that state can have capital punishment.  In these, and many other ways, state constitutions can set out the rules that their state’s government must follow.

State constitutions, then, have two major functions.  They set up the basic mechanism of government in their state and they lay out rules that the state government must follow.

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