Indiana - Law and Government

Law and Government

Main article: Government of Indiana See also: United States congressional delegations from Indiana, Indiana's congressional districts, and Political party strength in Indiana

The Governor of Indiana serves as the chief executive of the state and has the authority to manage the government as established in the Constitution of Indiana. The governor and the lieutenant governor are jointly elected to four-year terms, with gubernatorial elections running concurrent with United States presidential elections (1996,2000,2004,2008, etc.). The governor may not serve more than two consecutive terms. The governor works with the Indiana General Assembly and the Supreme Court of Indiana to govern the state and has the authority to adjust the other branches. Special sessions of the General Assembly can be called upon by the governor as well as have the power to select and remove leaders of nearly all state departments, boards and commissions. Other notable powers include calling out the Indiana Guard Reserve or the Indiana National Guard in times of emergency or disaster, issuing pardons or commuting the sentence of any criminal offenders except in cases of treason or impeachment and possessing an abundant amount of statutory authority. The lieutenant governor serves as the President of the Senate and is responsible for ensuring that the senate rules are acted in accordance with by its constituents. The lieutenant governor can only vote to break ties. If the governor dies in office, becomes permanently incapacitated, resigns or is impeached, the lieutenant governor becomes governor. If both the governor and lieutenant governor positions are unoccupied, the Senate President pro tempore becomes governor.

The Indiana General Assembly is composed of a 50-member Senate and 100-member House of Representatives. The Senate is the upper house of the General Assembly and the House of Representatives is the lower house. The General Assembly has exclusive legislative authority within the state government. Both the Senate and House of Representatives can introduce legislation, with the exception that the Senate is not authorized to initiate legislation that will affect revenue. Bills are debated and passed separately in each house, but must be passed by both houses before they can submitted to the Governor. The legislature can nullify a veto from the governor with a majority vote of full membership in the Senate and House of Representatives. Each law passed by the General Assembly must be used without exception to the entire state. The General Assembly has no authority to create legislation that targets only a particular community. The General Assembly can manage the state's judiciary system by arranging the size of the courts and the bounds of their districts. It also can oversee the activities of the executive branch of the state government, has restricted power to regulate the county governments within the state, and has exclusive power to initiate the method to alter the Indiana Constitution.

The Indiana Supreme Court is made up of five judges with a Court of Appeals composed of 15 judges. The governor selects judges for the supreme and appeal courts from a group of applicants chosen by a special commission. After serving for two years, the judges must acquire the support of the electorate to serve for a 10-year term. In nearly all cases, the Supreme Court does not have original jurisdiction and can only hear cases that are petitioned to the court following being heard in lower courts. Local circuit courts are where the majority of cases begin with a trial and the consequence decided by the jury. The Supreme Court does have original and sole jurisdiction in certain specific areas including the practice of law, discipline or disbarment of Judges appointed to the lower state courts, and supervision over the exercise of jurisdiction by the other lower courts of the State.

The state is divided into 92 counties, which are led by a board of county commissioners. 90 counties in Indiana have their own circuit court with a judge elected for a six-year term. The remaining two counties, Dearborn and Ohio, are combined into one circuit. Many counties operate superior courts in addition to the circuit court. In densely populated counties where the caseload is traditionally greater, separate courts have been established to solely hear either juvenile, criminal, probate or small claims cases. The establishment, frequency and jurisdiction of these additional courts varies greatly from county to county. There are 85 city and town courts in Indiana municipalities, created by local ordinance, typically handling minor offenses and not considered courts of record. County officials that are elected to four-year terms include an auditor, recorder, treasurer, sheriff, coroner and clerk of the circuit court. All incorporated cities in Indiana have a mayor and council form of municipal government. Towns are governed by a town council and townships are governed by a township trustee and advisory board.

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