Massachusetts General Court

The General Court of Massachusetts
2021–2022 Massachusetts legislature
Coat of arms or logo
House of Representatives
Karen Spilka (D)
since July 26, 2018
President pro tempore of the Senate
Will Brownsberger (D)
since March 20, 2019
Senate Majority Leader
Cynthia Stone Creem (D)
since February 28, 2018
Senate Minority Leader
Bruce Tarr (R)
since January 5, 2011
Ronald Mariano (D)
since December 30, 2020
Speaker pro tempore of the House
Kate Hogan (D)
since February 11, 2021
House Majority Leader
since January 19, 2022
House Minority Leader
Bradley Jones Jr. (R)
since November 21, 2002
40 senators
160 representatives
MA Senate 192.svg
Senate political groups
  •   Democratic (37)
  •   Republican (3)
MA House 192 september 15.svg
House of Representatives political groups
Senate last election
November 3, 2020
House of Representatives last election
November 3, 2020
Senate next election
November 8, 2022
House of Representatives next election
November 8, 2022
Meeting place
Massachusetts State House 2009b.JPG
Massachusetts State House, Boston, Massachusetts

The Massachusetts General Court (formally styled the General Court of Massachusetts)[1] is the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The name "General Court" is a hold-over from the earliest days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, when the colonial assembly, in addition to making laws, sat as a judicial court of appeals. Before the adoption of the state constitution in 1780, it was called the Great and General Court, but the official title was shortened by John Adams, author of the state constitution. It is a bicameral body. The upper house is the Massachusetts Senate which is composed of 40 members. The lower body, the Massachusetts House of Representatives, has 160 members. (Until 1978, it had 240 members.[2]) It meets in the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill in Boston.

The current President of the Senate is Karen Spilka, and the Speaker of the House is Ronald Mariano. Since 1959, Democrats have controlled both houses of the Massachusetts General Court, often by large majorities.[3][4] The Democrats enjoyed veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers for part of the 1990s (i.e., enough votes to override vetoes by a governor)[3] and also currently hold supermajorities in both chambers.[5]

State senators and representatives both serve two-year terms.[6] There are no term limits; a term limit was enacted by initiative in Massachusetts in 1994, but in 1997 this was struck down by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled that it was an unconstitutional attempt to provide additional qualifications for office by statute, rather than constitutional amendment.[7][8]

The legislature is a full-time legislature, although not to the extent of neighboring New York or some other states.[9]

  1. ^ Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. See Chapter I, Section I, Art.I
  2. ^ John A. Hird, Power, Knowledge, and Politics: Policy Analysis in the States (Georgetown University Press, 2005), p. 93.
  3. ^ a b Robert B. Hackey, Rethinking Health Care Policy: The New Politics of State Regulation (Georgetown University Press, 1998), p. 123.
  4. ^ John Hudak, Presidential Pork: White House Influence over the Distribution of Federal Grants (Brookings Institution Press, 2014), p. 202 ("Democrats frequently control a supermajority of both houses of the state legislature in Massachusetts").
  5. ^ Jonathan Cohn, Democratic supermajority not so super: Lawmakers from same party but not on same platform, Commonweal (May 27, 2017).
  6. ^ Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Article LXXXII.
  7. ^ Jennie Drage Bowser & Gary Moncrief, "Term Limits in State Legislatures" in Institutional Change in American Politics: The Case of Term Limits (eds. Karl T. Kurtz, Bruce E. Cain & Richard G. Niemi) (University of Michigan Press, 2007), p. 11.
  8. ^ Sara Rimer, Top Massachusetts Court Overturns Term Limits, New York Times (July 12, 1997).
  9. ^ Full- and Part-Time Legislatures, National Conference of State Legislatures (June 14, 2017).

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