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The Sources of Federal Law: An Overview of the Federal Government

This LibGuide explains how laws are created by each of the three branches of the Federal government.

State Governments

Nebraska Capitol Building

Most state governments follow the two house legislative framework. However, there is one state that does not follow the usual legislative scheme. Nebraska is unique in that it has a unicameral legislature that is made up of only a senate. Originally Nebraska had a two house legislature, but changed to a unicameral system in 1937. Another difference in Nebraska’s legislature is that it is a nonpartisan legislature, which means that candidates to the senate do not have to win a party primary to get on the ballot.

Constitutional Framework of the U.S. Government

United States Government Diagram

The structure of the United States government is determined by the United States Constitution. Under the Constitution the government is divided into three distinct branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.

The Executive branch is charged with making sure that the laws of the United States are enforced, handling international affairs, and providing for the defense of the United States. The Executive branch, through the powers given to the President by the Constitution and Congress, can create agencies which create regulations that citizens of the United States must follow.

The Legislative branch of the Federal government is controlled by Congress which consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are made up of delegates from all of the fifty states and the District of Colombia. The two houses of Congress vote on proposed bills to determine whether they become law or not.

The Judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court and the lesser Federal courts. The Supreme Court decides cases that arise due to conflicts between the states, questions concerning federal law, and cases that raise constitutional questions. The cases decided by the Supreme Court have broad impacts on the law of the United States and can determine if an act of Congress or the President is in violation of the United States Constitution.