As with the federal government, all state governments are based on a constitution. Indiana’s first constitution was adopted in 1816 when Indiana became a state and was rewritten in 1851; it has been amended many times since then. Like the federal government, state governments also have three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial, with duties and responsibilities much the same as those of their federal counterparts.
In all states the chief executive officer is the governor, directly elected by the people. A state may also have other directly elected executive officers, such as a lieutenant governor, an attorney general, a secretary of state, an auditor, a treasurer, and others. The exact structure of the executive branch varies from state to state.
All states also have directly elected legislatures and, with the exception of Nebraska, all state legislatures are bicameral (consisting of two chambers or houses). As with the federal government, the upper chamber is the Senate and the lower chamber is the House of Representatives. State legislatures vary in their number of senators (Alaska has 20; Minnesota has 67) and representatives (Nebraska has none; New Hampshire has 400). Indiana has 50 senators and 100 representatives, apportioned by population.
State judicial branches all have a state supreme court to hear appeals from the lower-level appellate courts and trial courts.
Executive: As the state’s chief executive officer, the governor oversees executive branch functions. The governor can recommend legislation and sign or veto bills that have passed both legislative chambers. He/she is also commander-in-chief of the Indiana National Guard and the Indiana Guard Reserve; the governor may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons. Indiana governors serve four-year terms with no overall term limits; however, governors may not serve for more than eight years in a twelve-year period.
Legislative: The Indiana General Assembly (IGA) is Indiana’s legislative branch, consisting of 50 senators and 100 representatives. Senators serve four-year terms and representatives serve two-year terms. The IGA alternates long and short sessions, meeting for 61 days in odd-numbered years and 30 days in even-numbered years. The IGA makes the laws for the state. A bill becomes law in a manner very similar to the way in which federal legislation is passed.
Judicial: The judicial branch includes the following courts: Indiana Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Tax Court, Superior Courts, Circuit Courts, Probate Court, Small Claims Courts, City Courts, Town Courts.
- The Indiana Supreme Court reviews lower court decisions; the scope of its original5 jurisdiction revolves largely around the practice of law, and also appeals related to death sentences. Justices are nominated by a judicial nominating commission and appointed by the governor. After two years, a Yes or No retention ballot determines whether they go on to serve a ten-year term.
- The Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over appeals not taken to the Indiana Supreme Court; its only original jurisdiction involves direct review of the final decisions of some administrative agencies. Judges go through the same nomination-appointment-ballot review process as supreme court justices, after which they serve ten-year terms with mandatory retirement at age 75.
For more information:
LWV-BMC Government Basics
Contact Your Legislator