Statehood. In Maryland, State government began when the 9th Provincial Convention adopted the first constitution of Maryland on November 8, 1776.
Maryland, on April 28, 1788, became the seventh state to ratify the federal Constitution.
State House, Annapolis, Maryland, January 2014. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
The Executive Branch of Maryland Government consists of executive agencies and certain Constitutional Officers, including the Governor, the chief executive of the State, who oversees the Executive Branch. Elected by the voters to a four-year term, the Governor presides over the Governor’s Executive Council. Known as the Cabinet, the Council includes the heads of the twenty departments which encompass most State government agencies. Subcabinets and coordinating offices also are directed by the Governor. In addition, the Governor oversees independent agencies, and frequently authorizes executive commissions and task forces to study and recommend solutions to particular matters of public concern.
State House (from Bladen St.), Annapolis, Maryland, July 2014. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
The General Assembly, Maryland’s bicameral legislature, consists of the Senate, led by the Senate President, and the House of Delegates, led by the House Speaker. As of January 9, 2019, the 47-member Senate has 32 Democrats (68%) and 15 Republicans (32%). As of the same date, the 141-member House of Delegates includes 99 Democrats (70%), and 42 Republicans (30%).
House of Delegates Chamber, State House, Annapolis, Maryland, January 2018. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
To enact laws, the General Assembly convenes annually on the second Wednesday in January for a 90-day session. The General Assembly last convened at Annapolis in regular session from January 8 to March 18, 2020, when it adjourned early due to the coronavirus.
The Judiciary is headed by the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. Four court divisions make up the Judicial Branch: the Court of Appeals, the Court of Special Appeals, the Circuit Courts, and the District Court of Maryland. In addition, each county orphans’ court has responsibility for probate.
Within the Executive Branch, the Maryland Tax Court hears appeals on tax issues, and administrative law judges of the Office of Administrative Hearings review contested decisions in State administrative law cases.
Of the 50 states, Maryland is among those with the fewest number of local governments.
County Government. Local government is found in Maryland’s 23 counties. There, three forms of government exist: county commissioners, code home rule, or charter.
Chesapeake Building, 41770 Baldridge St., Leonardtown (St. Mary’s County), Maryland, November 2017. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
County Commissioners. Under the county commissioners form of government, the General Assembly is authorized to legislate for a county. While a board of county commissioners exercises both executive and legislative functions defined by State law, and may enact ordinances, its legislative power is limited to those areas authorized by the General Assembly, enabling legislation, or public local laws (Code Local Government Article, secs. 9-101 through 9-113).
All Maryland counties formerly had boards of county commissioners, however, only six counties continue to operate in this fashion: Calvert, Carroll, Garrett, St. Mary’s, Somerset, and Washington.
Calvert County Courthouse, 175 Main St., Prince Frederick, Maryland, November 2012. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Code Home Rule. Since 1915, counties have had the option of governing under code home rule, which enables them to exercise broad local legislative authority (Chapter 493, Acts of 1965, ratified Nov. 8, 1966; Const., Art. XI-F). Six counties have chosen to adopt code home rule government: Allegany (1974), Caroline (1984), Charles (2002), Kent (1970), Queen Anne’s (1990), and Worcester (1976).
Charles County Government Building, 200 Baltimore St., La Plata, Maryland, May 2004. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Charter. The charter government separates the executive branch from the legislative branch (Chapter 416, Acts of 1914, ratified Nov. 2, 1915; Const., Art. XI-A). Most typically, it consists of a county executive and a county council. Charter government covers eleven Maryland counties: Anne Arundel (1964), Baltimore (1956), Cecil (2012), Dorchester (2002), Frederick (2014), Harford (1972), Howard (1968), Montgomery (1948), Prince George’s (1970), Talbot (1973), and Wicomico (1964).
Arundel Center, 44 Calvert St. (from Northwest St.), Annapolis (Anne Arundel County), Maryland, July 2014. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Municipal Government. Some 157 towns and cities (including Baltimore City) have their own governments. Created by State, county and municipal governments, special taxing districts exist in Montgomery County as well.
Maryland is represented in the U.S. Congress, and is part of the federal court system and other federal offices.
U.S. Congress. In the U.S. Senate, Maryland is represented by two senators. In the U.S. House of Representatives, eight representatives speak for Maryland.
U.S. Capitol (from First St., SE), Washington, DC, December 2017. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Federal Courts. Maryland is part of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and holds the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Under the U.S. District Court are the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the U.S. Magistrates.
Garmatz Federal Courthouse, 101 West Lombard St., Baltimore, Maryland, April 2008. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Federal Offices & Agencies.
Maryland State Government Budget
Maryland Constitutional Offices & Agencies
Maryland Independent Agencies
Maryland Executive Commissions, Committees, Task Forces, & Advisory Boards
Maryland Universities & Colleges
Maryland at a Glance
Maryland Manual On-Line
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