Social Studies - 2019-20

GOVT.8a - Powers of the State and Local Governments

The student will apply social science skills to understand the organization and powers of the state and local governments described in the Constitution of Virginia by 

a) examining the legislative, executive, and judicial branches; 

Adopted: 2015


Big Themes/Concepts: Power & Authority, Balance

What is the right balance of local, State, and federal government?

How much power should State government have?

How local should government be?


The Constitution of Virginia provides for legislative, executive, and judicial branches. 

Actions taken by state and local governments have direct impact on the everyday lives of Virginians. 


Branches of Virginia government 

The executive branch consists of three statewide-elected officials: 

 The governor 

o is the chief executive officer of the state 

o is responsible for 

 overseeing the state bureaucracy 

 preparing the biennial state budget 

 overseeing the execution of state laws and policies 

 proposing legislation 

 appointing cabinet secretaries, the heads of various state agencies, and the members of policy-setting boards and commissions 

o exercises veto power 

o serves a four-year term but may not serve two consecutive terms. 

 The lieutenant governor o presides over the Virginia Senate 

o exercises the powers of the governor if the governor is incapacitated temporarily 

o serves the governor's unexpired term if the governor dies or otherwise can no longer fulfill the duties of the office. 

 The attorney general o serves the main function of being lawyer for the state 

o issues nonbinding advisory opinions on legal issues 

o defends the state in legal matters.

The legislative branch of Virginia is known as the General Assembly. 

The General Assembly 
 is the oldest continuous legislative body in the Americas 
 is a bicameral (two-house) law-making body: 
o The Senate consists of 40 members who 
 serve single-member districts based upon population 
 are elected to four-year terms. 
o The House of Delegates consists of 100 members who 
 represent single-member districts based upon population 
 serve two-year terms 
 confirm the governor’s appointments. 

The General Assembly also 
 enacts laws 
 passes the budget 
 levies taxes to fund the budget. 

The judicial branch consists of four levels of courts. 
 Judges are elected by the state legislature for a specific term. 
 The Supreme Court reviews decisions of lower state courts. 
 The court of appeals reviews lower court decisions and state commissions. 
 Circuit courts have original and appellate jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases. 
 General district courts have original jurisdiction in misdemeanor traffic cases and lesser civil cases.


Updated: Aug 03, 2017