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name given to those who were against the ratification of the Constitution

Bicameral legislature

A legislature divided into two houses. The U.S. Congress and every American state legislature except Nebraska's are this.

Check and balances

system by which each branch of goverment check or control the actions of the other branches


a political system in which a weak central government has limited authority, and the states have ultimate power.

electoral college

a group of people named by each state legislature to select the president and vice president

executive agreement

an agreement between the president and the heads of other nations

executive order

directive, rule, or regulation issued by a chief executive or subordinates, based upon constitutional or statutory authority and having the force of law

federal system

a system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and a number of individual states


the name given to one who was in favor of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and the creation of a federal union with a strong central government.

Great Compromise

At the Constitutional Convention, larger states wanted to follow the Virginia Plan, which based each state's representation in Congress on state population. Smaller states wanted to follow the New Jersey Plan, which gave every state the same number of representatives. The convention compromised by creating the House and the Senate, and using both of the two separate plans as the method for electing members of each.

judicial review

the power of the Supreme Court to declare laws and actions of local, state, or national governments unconstitutional

Madisonian model

A structure of government proposed by James Madison in which the powers of the government are separated into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.

natural rights

Rights inherent in human beings, not dependent on governments, which include life, liberty, and property. The concept of natural rights was central to English philosopher John Locke's theories about government and was widely accepted among America's Founders.


formal approval

representative assembly

A legislature composed of individuals who represent the population.

separating of powers

The principle of dividing governmental powers among different branches of government

social contract

A voluntary agreement among individuals to secure their rights and welfare by creating a government and abiding by its rule


A group of people occupying a specific area and organized under one government; may be either a\ nation or a subunit of a nation

supremacy doctrine

a doctrine that asserts the priority of national law over state laws

unicameral legislature

A legislature with only one legislative chamber, as opposed to a bicameral (two-chamber) legislature, such as the U.S. Congress. Today, Nebraska is the only state in the Union with a unicameral legislature.

block grants

federal programs that provide funds to state and local governments for broad functional areas, such as criminal justice or mental-health programs

categorical grants

Federal grants to states or local governments that are for specific programs or projects.

commerce clause

The section of the Constitution in which Congress is given the power to regulate trade among the states and with foreign countries.

concurrent powers

powers shared by the state and federal governments

confederal system

A system consisting of a league of independent states, each having essentially sovereign powers. The central government created by such a league has only limited powers over the states.

cooperative federalism

A model of federalism in which the states and the national government cooperate in solving problems


the transfer of powers and responsibilities from the federal government to the states

dual federalism

A model of federalism in which the states and the national government each remain supreme within their own spheres. The doctrine looks on nation and state as coequal sovereign powers. Neither the state government nor the nation government should interfere in the other's sphere

elastic clause, or necessary and proper clause

the clause in article I, Section 8, that congress the power to do whatever is necessary to execute its specifically delegated powers

enumerated powers

Powers specifically given to Congress in the Constitution; including the power to collect taxes, coin money, regulate foreign and interstate commerce, and declare war.

federal mandate

A requirement the federal government imposes as a condition for receiving federal funds.

interstate compact

An agreement among two or more states. The Constitution requires that most such agreements be approved by Congress.

picket-fence federalism

A model of federalism in which specific programs and policies (depicted as vertical pickets in a picket fence) involve all levels of government - national, state, and local (depicted by the horizontal boards in a picket fence).

police power

power reserved to the government to regulate the health, safety, and morals of its citizens

supremacy clause

The constitutional provision that makes the Constitution and federal laws superior to all conflicting state and local laws.

unitary system

a government in which all key powers are given to the national or central government

community property

property acquired during marriage owned separately and equally by both spouses.


In the context of state government, constitutional provisions made inoperative by conflicting federal constitutional or statutory law

enabling act

Legislation that confers on appropriate officials the power to implement or enforce the law


the legal proceedings initiated by a creditor to repossess the collateral for loan that is in default

Freedmen's Bureau

The bureau of refugees, freedmen and abandoned lands, a federal bureau established in 1865 to aid refugees of the Civil war (including former slaves) and to administer confiscated property. Among other tasks, it sought to provide education to the former slaves. It was disbanded in 1872

general-law charter

a document authorizing the establishment of a city with a population of 5,000 or less whose structure and organization are prescribed and limited by a state law

home rule

the right of a local government to write a charter establishing any organizational structure or program that does not conflict with state law. The texas constitution reserves home rule for municipalities with populations of 5,000 or more.

house and senate journals

The official public records of the actions of the two chambers of the Texas legislature. The two journals are issued daily during sessions.

partisan election

An election between candidates who are nominated by their parties and whose party affiliation is designated on the ballot. In Texas, all state and county officials (including judges) are selected in this manner. Only municipal and some special district elections are nonpartisan in Texas.

plural executive

an executive branch with power divided among several independent officers and a weak chief executive

regular session

A legislative session scheduled by the constitution. Texas regular sessions are biennial (once every two years) rather than annual as in most states and in Congress.

special district

A local or regional government with responsibility for some single function such as administering schools, handling sewage, or managing airports.

special session

a legislative session called by the governor that addresses an agenda set by him or her and that lasts no longer than thirty days

statue-like details

Detailed state constitutional provisions characterized by the narrow scope found in statutory law.

statutory law

Law passed by legislatures and eventually compiled in law codes

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