Part 2: In a Nutshell

  • A constitution is a document that gives rules and laws explaining how the government is organized and run.
  • Lawmakers must follow the Constitution when they make new laws.
  • Changes to the Constitution are called amendments.
  • The rights of the people are stated in the Bill of Rights which is the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
  • The Constitution limited the powers of the government by dividing the power into three parts.
  • Checks and balances allows the branches of government to check on each other so that no one branch has too much power.
  • The legislative branch makes the laws.
  • The executive branch makes sure the laws are enforced.
  • The judicial branch explains the laws and settles disputes.
  • Congress, the legislative branch, is composed of the Senate (100 members) and the House of Representatives (435 members).
  • Each state is represented by two senators.
  • Each state is represented by one or more representatives, depending on the state’s population.
  • North Dakota has one representative.
  • The court system makes up the judicial branch of the federal government.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court, made up of nine justices, is the highest court in the nation.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court explains the laws according to the Constitution.
  • The capital of the United States is Washington, D.C.
  • The city of Washington occupies all of the District of Columbia.
  • Each branch of the U.S. government has a main building where it meets.
  • State governments are set up the same way as the federal (national) government.
  • Federal laws are higher than state laws.
  • Both the national and state governments can make laws, manage a court system, collect taxes, borrow money, and take care of people.
  • The people have certain powers that the national and state governments cannot take away.
  • The North Dakota Constitution was written in 1889 when North Dakota became a state.
  • A preamble is an introduction.
  • A bill of rights is a list of people’s rights that the government must protect.
  • North Dakota’s bill of rights is called the “Declaration of Rights.”
  • Amendments, or changes, to the North Dakota Constitution must be approved by the voters.
  • North Dakota’s legislative branch is called the “Legislative Assembly.”
  • The Legislative Assembly meets biennially, or every two years during odd-numbered years (…2019, 2021, 2023, …).
  • The Legislative Assembly (like Congress) is bicameral, or made up of two houses that have equal power.
  • North Dakota’s 47 legislative districts are changed each decennial (every 10 years) after a census is taken.
  • Each legislative district has one senator and two representatives in the Legislative Assembly.
  • The House chamber is larger than the Senate chamber because there are twice as many representatives as senators.
  • The Speaker of the House is elected by the members of the House to conduct meetings in the House chamber.
  • The Lieutenant Governor is called the “President of the Senate” and conducts meetings in the Senate chamber.
  • Most of the work of the Legislative Assembly is done in committees.
  • Each bill, or draft of a law, has a hearing, or public discussion, before it is voted on.
  • A majority (over half ) of the senators and representatives must vote in favor of a bill in order for it to pass.
  • If the Governor signs a bill, it becomes a law.
  • If the Governor vetoes (rejects) a bill, it goes back to the Senate and House.
  • The Senate and House may override (win against) a Governor’s veto if two-thirds of both houses vote in favor of the bill.
  • The executive branch of North Dakota government is headed by 13 elected officials.
  • The judicial branch of state government is made up of the state court system.
  • The North Dakota Supreme Court is the highest court in the state.
  • Five justices serve on the North Dakota Supreme Court.
  • The Chief Justice is elected by the other justices to preside over the Supreme Court.
  • An appeal is a court case brought up from a lower court to a higher court.
  • The Court of Appeals helps the Supreme Court with certain cases.
  • District Courts serve the counties in the state.
  • A criminal case involves someone being accused of doing something illegal.
  • A civil case involves disputes about people’s rights.
  • Municipal Courts deal with violations of municipal ordinances, or city laws.
  • Citizens elect people to represent (speak for) them in government.
  • North Dakota citizens have the power to make or reject a law by getting enough signatures on a petition and having the citizens of the state vote on it.