Government of Massachusetts

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is governed by a set of political tenets laid down in its state constitution. Legislative power is held by the bicameral General Court, which is composed of the Senate and House of Representatives. The governor exercises executive power with other independently-elected officers: the Attorney General, Secretary of the Commonwealth, and Auditor. The state's judicial power rests in the Supreme Judicial Court, which manages its court system. Cities and towns act through local governmental bodies to the extent that they are authorized by the Commonwealth on local issues, including limited home-rule authority. Although most county governments were abolished during the 1990s and 2000s, a handful remain.

Massachusetts' capital city is Boston. The seat of power is in Beacon Hill, home of the legislative and executive branches. The Supreme Judicial Court is in nearby Pemberton Hill.


Massachusetts has 151 departments or agencies and over 700 independent boards and commissions.[1] The governor exercises direct control of many of the largest agencies, and indirect control of independent entities through appointments.

Elected officialsEdit

Other elected officials are:

Some executive agencies are tasked by the legislature with formulating regulations by following a prescribed procedure. Most of these are collected in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations.


The governor has a cabinet of eleven secretaries.They supervise the state agencies, which are under the direct control of the governor.[2] Nine of the secretaries preside over the executive office of their respective areas.[3]

Agency Secretary Website
Executive Office of Administation and Finance Michael J Heffernen
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen A. Theohadires
Executive Office of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders
Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy
Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta
Executive Office of Public Safety and Security Thomas Turco
Executive Office of Technology Services and Security Curtis M. Wood
Massachusetts Department of Education James Peyser
Massachusetts Department of Transportation Stephanie Pollack


State House interior

The state legislature is formally known as the Massachusetts General Court, reflecting its colonial-era judicial duties. It has two houses: the 40-member Senate and the 160-member House of Representatives. Members of both houses have two-year terms. The Speaker of the House presides over the House of Representatives and controls the flow of legislation. The President is the presiding officer of the Senate.

The General Court is responsible for enacting the state's laws. A bill signed by the governor, or passed by two-thirds of both houses over his or her veto, becomes law. Its session laws are published in the Acts and Resolves of Massachusetts, which are codified as the General Laws of Massachusetts. On June 9, 2017, S&P Global Ratings downgraded Massachusetts' bond rating to AA (the third-highest tier) due to the legislature's inability to replenish the state's rainy day fund in the face of above-average economic growth.[8]

Senate Officials
Position Senator

Karen Spilka

President pro tempore  

Will Brownsberger

Majority Leader  

Cynthia Stone Creem

Minority Leader  

Bruce Tarr

House Officials
Position Representative
Speaker of the House  

Robert DeLeo

Speaker pro tempore  

Patricia Haddad

Majority Leader  

Ronald Mariano

Minority Leader Bradley Jones Jr.


The judiciary is the branch of the government that interprets and applies state law, ensures equal justice under law, and provides a mechanism for dispute resolution.

Supreme Judicial Court
Justice Began active service Appointed by Reaches age 70
Ralph Gants 2009 (associate)
2014 (chief)
Deval Patrick (both) 2024
Barbara Lenk 2011[9] Deval Patrick 2020
Frank Gaziano 2016 Charlie Baker 2034
David A. Lowy 2016 Charlie Baker 2031
Kimberly S. Budd 2016 Charlie Baker 2036
Elspeth B. Cypher 2017[10] Charlie Baker 2029
Scott L. Kafker 2017 Charlie Baker 2029

The Massachusetts court system consists of the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, and seven trial-court departments:

Judicial power is centered in the Supreme Judicial Court, which oversees the court system. In addition to its appellate functions, the Supreme Judicial Court is responsible for the governance of the judiciary and the bar, makes (or approves) rules for the operation of the courts and, on request, provides advisory opinions to the governor and legislature on legal issues. The Supreme Judicial Court also oversees affiliated judicial agencies, including the Board of Bar Overseers, the Board of Bar Examiners, the Clients' Security Board, the Massachusetts Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, and Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services.

Local governmentEdit

Massachusetts shares with the five other New England states the New England town form of government. Only the southeastern third of the state has county governments; in western, central, and northeastern Massachusetts, traditional county-level government was eliminated during the late 1990s. All land in Massachusetts is divided among cities and towns and there are no unincorporated areas, population centers, or townships. Massachusetts has four kinds of public-school districts: local schools, regional schools, vocational-technical schools, and charter schools. District attorneys and sheriffs are elected by constituencies which mainly follow county boundaries, and are funded by the state budget.[11][12] Although most county governments have been abolished, each county still has a sheriff's department which operates correctional facilities and service of process in the county.


The state has an open-meeting law enforced by the attorney general, and a public-records law enforced by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.[13] A 2008 report by the Better Government Association and National Freedom of Information Coalition ranked Massachusetts 43rd out of the 50 US states in government transparency. It gave the state a grade of "F," based on the time, cost, and comprehensiveness of access to public records.[14] Access to government records and the actions of the Secretary in enforcing the law became an issue in the 2014 campaign for the office. Incumbent William Galvin cited his previous requests that the legislature revise the Public Records Law to facilitate access.[15] According to the governor, he is exempt from the Public Records Law.[13] A reform law was signed on June 3, 2016 and took effect on January 1, 2017, imposing stricter time limits and lower costs.[16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Home - Boards and Commissions".
  2. ^ "State Government Organizational Chart - Commonwealth of Massachusetts".
  3. ^ 6A MGL 2
  4. ^ "General Laws".
  5. ^ "Department of Family and Medical Leave Seeking Director".
  6. ^ 7A MGL 1
  7. ^ a b 6A MGL 16
  8. ^ Miller, Joshua (2017-06-09). "State bond rating downgraded in blow to Baker, Mass. politicians". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2017-06-10.
  9. ^ Levenson, Michael (May 4, 2011). "Lenk approved for SJC; first openly gay justice on state's highest court". Boston Globe. Retrieved May 4, 2011.
  10. ^ "Justice Margot Botsford retires from SJC – The Boston Globe". Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  11. ^ "FY2009 Budget - District Attorneys General Appropriations Act".
  12. ^ "FY2009 Budget - Sheriffs General Appropriations Act".
  13. ^ a b "FOREWORD".
  14. ^ "States Failing FOI Responsiveness".
  15. ^ "Secretary of State Galvin faces criticism for keeping government secrets - Metro - The Boston Globe".
  16. ^ "Gov. Baker Signs Law Overhauling State's Public Records System".

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit