Executive Branch of State Government – The Governor

Table of Contents

Brief history

The governors of the United States could as well be regarded as the chief executive of their respective states. In fact, they initially headed the American colonies, which later on became known as the union states. The roles of the American governor have also evolved with the making of history of the various states over the years. For the most part, governors have had to cede power to the legislatures of a state, the federal government, as well as several other executive officials (Greenly 2003). From 1970 moving forward through, following a significant loosening of their legal control in as far as the governors’ authority is concerned, these government office bearers have progressively amassed both importance and power.

During the early part of the seventeenth century, at a time when privately chartered companies were still in charge of the colonies, the primary role of governors was that of corporate managers. In this position, the governors had only been vested with a political authority which at best can only be termed vague (Greenly 2003). Nevertheless, following a greater power assertion by the Crown in the America, this also acted to confer added powers to the governors, who now assumed the role of colonial proxies to the king.

During the Jacksonian era between 1830 and 1840, a majority of the states sought to write new constitutions, following a realization that voters were a significant lot, and this, in turn, saw governors being accountable to the people under this jurisdiction, directly (Mohapatra 2008). As such, the governors had their legislative authorities freed from them. Perhaps the period between 1890 and 1920, otherwise referred to as the Progressive Era, is the period during which there was a rapid growth of the government and by extension, the office of the governor. This trend however was to later change with the coming of the great depression in the late 1920s, seeing that the governors at the time were not coherent enough to make a response to the looming crisis.

Nevertheless, the 1960s saw consolidation and reorganizing of the office of the governor, a move that was especially buoyed by the decision by various states to accord their governors an authority over the annual budget of the various states (Greenly 2003). Lately, there has been a trend whereby several United States governors have utilized their position and influence to rise to the higher office of the presidency. Notable examples include former presidents Clinton and Bush.

General duties of office

In the United States, a governor is usually deemed as heading states that are otherwise non-sovereign. The various states in America have the office of a governor, charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the individual states are run in a smooth manner (Venus 2009).

The constitutions of the various states have also helped to delegate various requirements and duties in as far as the role of the governor goes. These may include the number of terms one can occupy in office, as well as the age requirement. Nevertheless, there exist profound similarities from one state to another.

As chief executives to their respective states, American governors are responsible for running the government’s executive branch. Not only is a governor the military’s commander-in-chief, but also has a controlling effect on the state budget. Moreover, the constitution of the United States provides that the governor has a authority to allocate persons to the two senate seats within their state. In other states, such as Georgia for instance, the governor has been bestowed with legislative veto power over the general assembly in Georgia. Nevertheless, such a veto may also be nullified by a two-thirds majority vote by both the senate and the house of Representatives members.

In the United States, governors are considerably drawn into foreign matters, following the introduction of the bureau of homeland security. As such, it is a requirement that governors be acquainted with security policies and procedures, like terror alerts. Aside from international politics, governors tend to have a profound influence on policy decisions at a national level (Venus 2009). For example, in 2006, two United States governors, Bob Ehrlich and George Pataki sought to stage legal action that entailed a cancellation of lease agreements of the concerned ports, if Dubai Portal World was allowed to go ahead with a decision to impose US ports security.

There is also a possibility for the responsibilities of a governor to either contract or expand, based on the individual that has occupied this office at any one given time. With their origins from the colonial rule of the British, the system of governors in the United States has over the years, undergone tremendous changes, to align to the needs and requirements of each state (Mohapatra 2008). There is also a likelihood too that this office shall continue experiencing changes along the line of policy issues.

Limit of powers

There are quite a few factors in operation about the office of the governor in the various states in the United States that when combined, seek to limit the powers that these chief executives can exercise over their jurisdiction. To start with, the authority of a governor gets limited by the federal constitution through a declaration that those individuals implicated in the crime, and who have moved from one jurisdiction to another, may only get convicted in that state at which the actual crime took place For this reason, therefore, a governor to a state in which a criminal has sought refuge is not in a position to convict such a criminal.

In addition, the state government executive powers have not been concentrated around the office of the governor only. Ratter, several government officials have certain powers in the various states (Greenley 2003). These are also elected directly by the members of such a state, and as such, a governor may have little or no control over such officials. This then means that since such officials are not directly answerable to the governor, he/she may not only hold them accountable while they are in office. Besides, the act of executing laws of the state is for the most part at the docket of either the municipal or other officials within the locality of a state. Again, the governor may not have much control over such officials.

From another perspective, it is worthy of note that the courts have liberally interpreted the United States’ president’s expressive powers. On the other hand, those relating to the office of the governor are oftentimes confined in both a literal and narrow sense. In addition, the governor’s powers never or rarely go above the expressive limit that the constitution of a state has helped impose. This is often applicable to a majority of the states in America (Greenley 2003).


In as much as the governors of the United States have constitutional powers while in office, nevertheless there are those among them that tend to misuse their powers for either their selfish ends or to the benefit of their political allies. As such, the office of the governor could be said to not have escaped being mired by one form of controversy or another.

A recent case in point was that which involved the governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich, who tried to sell the senate seat that was previously held by the new president of the United States, Barrack Obama (McCarthy 2009). Although the governor may have a mandate to appoint two members of the senate within his jurisdiction, Blagojevich sought to misuse this power when he offered the seat of the former senator of Illinois, Barrack Obama to the highest bidder.

Following this development, there was a national outcry to have the governor removed from office, with Blagojevich insisting that he acted within the legal framework, thereby snubbing calls for his resignation (McCarthy 2009). This was also followed by a demand by the president of the United States Barrack Obama that the governor resigns on grounds of being involved in corruption. Still, Rod Blagojevich could not bulge.

Eventually, the legislators of the Illinois state unanimously voted to have the governor removed. He was also implicated in several chargers that revolved around criminal misconduct while still in office (McCarthy 2009). Following this development, Blagojevich went down the annals of the United States history as the eighth governor who has had his powers stripped of him, following an impeachment.

Works cited

Greenley, Steven. “Preventing Future Abuses of the Pardon Power by the governor” DCBA Brief, 2003. Web.

McCarthy, Mike. “Illinois governor ousted in plot to sell Obama’s seat”. The Times, 2009. Web.

Mohapatra, Anil. “Role of the governor: pro-active vs. figure head”. 2008. Web.

Venus, D. (2009). “What are a Governor’s Responsibilities?”. Web.

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