CoverIntroductionTable of Contents with Critical Media Literacy ConnectionsUpdates & Latest AdditionsLearning Pathway: Racial Justice and Black Lives MatterLearning Pathway: Influential WomenLearning Pathway: Student RightsLearning Pathway: Elections 2024, 2022, & 2020Learning Pathway: Current Events Learning Pathway: Critical Media LiteracyTeacher-Designed Learning PlansTopic 1. The Philosophical Foundations of the United States Political System1.1. The Government of Ancient Athens1.2. The Government of the Roman Republic1.3. Enlightenment Thinkers and Democratic Government1.4. British Influences on American Government1.5. Native American Influences on U.S. GovernmentTopic 2. The Development of the United States Government2.1. The Revolutionary Era and the Declaration of Independence2.2. The Articles of Confederation2.3. The Constitutional Convention2.4. Debates between Federalists and Anti-Federalists2.5. Articles of the Constitution and the Bill of RightsTopic 3. Institutions of United States Government3.1. Branches of the Government and the Separation of Powers3.2. Checks and Balances Between the Branches of Government3.3. The Roles of the Congress, the President, and the Courts3.4. Elections and Nominations3.5. The Role of Political PartiesTopic 4. The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens4.1. Becoming a Citizen4.2. Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens and Non-Citizens4.3. Civic, Political, and Private Life4.4. Fundamental Principles and Values of American Political and Civic Life4.5. Voting and Citizen Participation in the Political Process4.6. Election Information4.7. Leadership and the Qualities of Political Leaders4.8. Cooperation Between Individuals and Elected Leaders4.9. Public Service as a Career4.10. Liberty in Conflict with Equality or Authority4.11. Political Courage and Those Who Affirmed or Denied Democratic Ideals4.12. The Role of Political Protest4.13. Public and Private Interest Groups, PACs, and Labor UnionsTopic 5. The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court Decisions5.1. The Necessary and Proper Clause5.2. Amendments to the Constitution5.3. Constitutional Issues Related to the Civil War, Federal Power, and Individual Civil Rights5.4. Civil Rights and Equal Protection for Race, Gender, and Disability5.5. Marbury v. Madison and the Principle of Judicial Review5.6. Significant Supreme Court DecisionsTopic 6. The Structure of Massachusetts State and Local Government6.1. Functions of State and National Government6.2. United States and Massachusetts Constitutions6.3. Enumerated and Implied Powers6.4. Core Documents: The Protection of Individual Rights6.5. 10th Amendment to the Constitution6.6. Additional Provisions of the Massachusetts Constitution6.7. Responsibilities of Federal, State and Local Government6.8. Leadership Structure of the Massachusetts Government6.9. Tax-Supported Facilities and Services6.10. Components of Local GovernmentTopic 7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media Literacy7.1. Freedom of the Press7.2. Competing Information in a Free Press7.3. Writing the News: Different Formats and Their Functions7.4. Digital News and Social Media7.5. Evaluating Print and Online Media7.6. Analyzing Editorials, Editorial Cartoons, or Op-Ed CommentariesGlossaryIndex of Terms
Topic 6

The Structure of Massachusetts State and Local Government

Map of Massachusetts Counties, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Snapshot of Topic 6

Supporting Question 

Massachusetts Standards [8.T6.1-6]

  1. Functions of State and National Government
  2. Distribution of Powers in the United States and Massachusetts Constitutions
  3. Enumerated and Implied Powers
  4. The Protection of Individual Rights
  5. The 10th Amendment
  6. Identify additional protections provided by the Massachusetts Constitution
  7. Responsibilities of Government at Federal, State and Local Levels
  8. Leadership Structure of Massachusetts Government
  9. Tax-Supported Facilities and Services
  10. Major Components of Local Government

Topic 6: The Structure of Massachusetts State and Local Government

Topic 6 explores the roles of state and local government in Massachusetts and around the nation.

State Government

State government refers to the institutions that provide government for an entire state - its governor, legislature, and state's court system. There are a total of 7,383 state legislative seats in the country, and the Republican and Democratic Parties are engaged in an intense competition to control those decision-making bodies.

In 2021, Republicans control the legislature and governnorship in 22 states; Democrats 14 states; and 13 states have a divided government, including Alaska which has adopted a multiparistan legislature coaltion of members of different political parties (2021 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, National Conference of State Legislatures, February 2022). In Minnesota, each party controls one of the houses of the state legislature, a situation that has not happened since 1914.

In some places, individuals with extreme political views have been elected to state legislatures. Jane Mayer (State Legislatures Are Torching Democracy, August 15, 2022), writing in The New Yorker, reported that of the 7,383 representatives serving in 2021-2022, 850 had joined far-right Facebook groups; all but three were Republicans.

Local Government

Local government refers to the people that run cities and towns, including mayors, select boards, city councils and town meetings.

Massachusetts is considered a commonwealth because it appeared in the state’s constitution in 1780 (the states of Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Virginia are also commonwealths). Being a commonwealth does not define any superior status to other states that are not a commonwealth, but when originally used it simply meant to describe a state of people. Commonwealth was coined to describe dependencies of the British Empire, with the monarch seen as the head of the commonwealth. Like the term commonwealth, many counties and towns of Massachusetts are directly referenced from England, the most obvious larger example is “New England."

While Topic 6 has information specific to Massachusetts (such as the Massachusetts Constitution and the leadership structure of the state's government), most of the following standards focus on the functioning of state and local governments throughout the U.S. political system. Our modules explore interactions between federal, state and local government in the context of the challenges brought on by the digitial revolution, the Trump Presidency, and the COVID-19 pandemic.