Separation of Powers
This guide will help you understand how government power is separated between its three co-equal branches at its federal and state levels.
The federal government and all of the state governments are divided into three co-equal branches: legislative, executive and judicial. Each branch serves a different function and cannot encroach on the powers of the others.
The legislative branch, which is divided into the House and Senate, creates and passes laws. For example, a representative or senator can propose a law to set a tax at a lower rate. The Legislature cannot enforce laws, does not offer legal advice for court cases, and does not interfere in court cases.
The executive branch carries out and enforces the laws through its varous agencies and deparments. For example, the state Department of Taxation implements laws that determine state tax rates and the state Department of Transportation is responsible for state highway projects. The head of the executive branch is the governor for state governments and the president for the federal government. The executive branch cannot create laws.
The judicial branch administers the court system and settles legal disputes in court cases. The courts can strike down laws, such as a state law that conflicts with federal laws or the state Constitution. Federal courts fulfill certain roles that state courts don't, such as the interpretation of laws. "Lower" courts are subject to the rulings of "higher" courts. The U.S. Supreme court is the highest court in the country.