1. State Constitution
    The first constitution of the state of New Jersey was written in 1776. The constitution was written during the Revolutionary War to create a basic government framework for the state. It is different from the United States Constitution, which provides the structure for the government of the whole country.

    The constitution has been replaced twice to address problems and new issues within government. In the mid-1800s New Jersey citizens wanted a more democratic state government. The 1844 constitution separated the powers of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. A bill of rights was included in the constitution. The new constitution also gave the people (instead of the legislature) the right to elect the governor.

    Today's constitution came into effect in 1947. The governor's powers were increased and his or her term in office was extended an extra year to four years. The state court system was also reorganized.

    Today, the constitution can be changed through amendments. Amendments can be proposed by the legislature. Three-fifths of both houses of the legislature must approve an amendment. It can also pass by receiving a majority vote for two straight years. Voters must also approve amendments in the general election.

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  2. Executive Branch
    The chief of the executive branch is the governor. The governor's office is located in the State House in Trenton. The governor signs bills into law or vetoes them. He or she can also recommend laws and call the legislature into special session. The governor has the power to grant pardons and is the only person with the authority to call in the National Guard.

    The governor's official residence is a mansion called Drumthwacket, which is located in Princeton. The governor may use the mansion for meetings, ceremonies, and other sorts of business.

    Throughout a typical day for the governor, he or she meets with citizens, legislators, and members of his or her staff. The governor often starts the day with a breakfast at Drumthwacket with a group of New Jerseyans such as veterans, teachers, or volunteers. During the day, the governor usually holds a public event, such as a bill signing or a speech.

    The governor may serve any number of terms, but he or she cannot serve more than two terms in a row. To become governor, a person must be

    • at least 30 years old,
    • a U.S. citizen for at least 20 years, and
    • a New Jersey resident for seven years prior to the election.

    The governor earns $157,000 per year. The maximum salary the governor can be paid is $175,000.

    Supporting the governor is his or her staff. The governor's staff deals with the media and makes his or her schedule. Certain staff members may also write speeches or do research to help the governor make policy decisions. Staff also informs the heads of different departments and legislative leaders about the governor's agenda.

    In addition to the Governor's Office, there are 16 executive departments and many boards and commissions. Most executive officials serve four-year terms. The executive departments carry out the policies set by the governor. The officials who lead these agencies are appointed by the governor and approved by the state Senate. Officials appointed by the governor include the following:

    • Attorney General
    • Secretary of State
    • State Treasurer
    • Commissioners of the Departments of Agriculture, Banking and Insurance, Commerce, Community Affairs, Corrections, Education, Environmental Protection, Health and Senior Services, Human Services, Labor, Military and Veterans Affairs, Personnel, and Transportation
    • Judges (including the State Supreme Court)
    • County Prosecutors
    • County Boards of Election and Taxation
    • Members of Boards and Commissions
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  3. Legislative Branch
    The Senate and General Assembly make up the legislative branch. The Senate has 40 members, and the General Assembly has 80 members. One senator and two assembly members are elected from each of the 40 districts of New Jersey. The Senate and Assembly chambers are located in the State House in Trenton.

    The Legislature's main job is to enact laws. The Legislature can also propose amendments to the New Jersey Constitution.

    The Senate and General Assembly meet for about 40 sessions a year. Sessions are held on Mondays and Thursdays. During the rest of the week, the legislators often hold committee meetings or public hearings. Since the legislature does not meet year-round, legislative work is a part-time job. Most legislators have another job as well.

    The leader of the Senate is the Senate President. The Speaker of the General Assembly heads the General Assembly. The Senate President takes over the Governor's Office if the governor is unable to serve. In January, 2001, Senate President Donald DiFrancesco became Acting Governor when Christine Todd Whitman left the governorship to become director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    The President and the Speaker schedule meetings and determine which bills will be considered within their respective houses. They also lead the legislative sessions.

    A legislator may start his or her day with a morning committee meeting. Around lunchtime, he or she might meet with other members of his or her political party. On a Monday or Thursday afternoon, floor sessions are held where debates and votes on bills are held in public.

    While both houses work on making and passing laws, the Senate and Assembly have individual powers, too. The Senate approves the people that the governor appoints to official positions. The Assembly is the only group that can bring impeachment charges. Impeachment is a charge of misconduct against an official. But the Senate is the court of impeachment in New Jersey, where the charges are tried. Any bills requiring revenue to be raised start out in the Assembly. But, by custom, the Senate handles the state budget.

    A legislator must live in the district he or she represents. Senators have to be at least 30 and have to live in New Jersey for at least four years before they are elected. Members of the Assembly must be at least 21 and state residents for two years. Legislators earn $35,000 per year. That salary will rise to $49,000 in 2002.

    There is also leadership within the political parties in both houses. The majority and minority leaders and the assistant leaders come up with the each party's policies on the issues raised in the bills. Additionally, there are many committees that review legislation. Learn more about the role of committees and the process of making a law in "How a Bill Becomes a Law."

    The legislative branch is also made up of a number of staff members. The Office of Legislative Services provides legal advice and research to members of both political parties. They also take care of writing the bills. In addition, each party has its own staff that performs similar functions, but only for that party. Each legislator also has his or her own district office with a full staff.

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  4. Judicial Branch
    The Senate and General Assembly make up the legislative branch. The Senate has 40 members, and the General Assembly has 80 members. One senator and two assembly members are elected from each of the 40 districts of New Jersey. The Senate and Assembly chambers are located in the State House in Trenton.

    The Legislature's main job is to enact laws. The Legislature can also propose amendments to the New Jersey Constitution.

    The Senate and General Assembly meet for about 40 sessions a year. Sessions are held on Mondays and Thursdays. During the rest of the week, the legislators often hold committee meetings or public hearings. Since the legislature does not meet year-round, legislative work is a part-time job. Most legislators have another job as well.

    The leader of the Senate is the Senate President. The Speaker of the General Assembly heads the General Assembly. The Senate President takes over the Governor's Office if the governor is unable to serve. In January, 2001, Senate President Donald DiFrancesco became Acting Governor when Christine Todd Whitman left the governorship to become director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    The President and the Speaker schedule meetings and determine which bills will be considered within their respective houses. They also lead the legislative sessions.

    A legislator may start his or her day with a morning committee meeting. Around lunchtime, he or she might meet with other members of his or her political party. On a Monday or Thursday afternoon, floor sessions are held where debates and votes on bills are held in public.

    While both houses work on making and passing laws, the Senate and Assembly have individual powers, too. The Senate approves the people that the governor appoints to official positions. The Assembly is the only group that can bring impeachment charges. Impeachment is a charge of misconduct against an official. But the Senate is the court of impeachment in New Jersey, where the charges are tried. Any bills requiring revenue to be raised start out in the Assembly. But, by custom, the Senate handles the state budget.

    A legislator must live in the district he or she represents. Senators have to be at least 30 and have to live in New Jersey for at least four years before they are elected. Members of the Assembly must be at least 21 and state residents for two years. Legislators earn $35,000 per year. That salary will rise to $49,000 in 2002.

    There is also leadership within the political parties in both houses. The majority and minority leaders and the assistant leaders come up with the each party's policies on the issues raised in the bills. Additionally, there are many committees that review legislation. Learn more about the role of committees and the process of making a law in "How a Bill Becomes a Law."

    The legislative branch is also made up of a number of staff members. The Office of Legislative Services provides legal advice and research to members of both political parties. They also take care of writing the bills. In addition, each party has its own staff that performs similar functions, but only for that party. Each legislator also has his or her own district office with a full staff.

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