The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is governed by a set of political tenets laid down in its state constitution. Legislative power is held by the bicameral General Court, which is composed of the Senate and House of Representatives. The governor exercises executive power with other independently elected officers: the Attorney General, Secretary of the Commonwealth, and Auditor. The state’s judicial power rests in the Supreme Judicial Court, which manages its court system. Cities and towns act through local governmental bodies to the extent that they are authorized by the Commonwealth on local issues, including limited home-rule authority. Although most county governments were abolished during the 1990s and 2000s, a handful remain.

Massachusetts’ capital city is Boston. The seat of power is in Beacon Hill, home of the legislative and executive branches. The Supreme Judicial Court is in nearby Pemberton Hill.

Federal government

Congressional delegation

For Congressional representation outlined in the United States Constitution, Massachusetts elects two Senators to the Senate, as well as a number of Representatives to the House of Representatives proportional to the state’s population in the US Census. From the 2010 Census, Massachusetts has nine representatives. As of the 2020 election, all these officials have been from the Democratic Party. This makes the Massachusetts federal delegation the largest single-party federal delegation in the United States.

Congressional delegation of Massachusetts
ChamberDistrictOfficialPartyTerm beganTerm expires
SenateAt-LargeElizabeth WarrenDemocrat20192025
Ed MarkeyDemocrat20212027
House of Representatives1stRichard NealDemocrat20212023
2ndJim McGovernDemocrat
3rdLori TrahanDemocrat
4thJake AuchinclossDemocrat
5thKatherine ClarkDemocrat
6thSeth MoultonDemocrat
7thAyanna PressleyDemocrat
8thStephen LynchDemocrat
9thBill KeatingDemocrat

Federal courts

For federal court cases the State falls within the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Electoral College

Massachusetts has 11 votes in the electoral college for election of the President, which are given on a winner-take-all basis. The state joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact in 2009, though the Compact has not yet achieved sufficient national support to be activated.


Massachusetts has 151 departments or agencies and over 700 independent boards and commissions.[1] The head of the state’s Executive Branch is by law the Governor, but it also has two types of executive officials that do not fall in the Governor’s control. Constitutional officers are the elected officials specified by the state constitution, while independent agencies are created by statute and the governor exercises only indirect control through appointments.[2]

Constitutional officers

Officials elected statewide

Governor’s Council

The Governor’s Council consists of eight elected councilors elected from districts every two years, as well as the lieutenant governor. The council provides for advice and consent for judicial appointments, appointment of certain public officials including notaries public and justices of the peace, pardons and commutations, and certain payments from the state treasury.[3] The governor is the nonvoting president of the council, but is chaired by the Lieutenant Governor in their absence.

Massachusetts Governor’s Council
Chairperson, at-largeKaryn PolitoRepublican
District 1Joseph FerreiraDemocrat
District 2Robert L. JubinvilleDemocrat
District 3Marilyn M. Petitto DevaneyDemocrat
District 4Christopher A. IannellaDemocrat
District 5Eileen R. DuffDemocrat
District 6Terrance W. KennedyDemocrat
District 7Paul DePaloDemocrat
District 8Mary E. HurleyDemocrat

Some executive agencies are tasked by the legislature with formulating regulations by following a prescribed procedure. Most of these are collected in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations.

Cabinet and government agencies

The governor has a cabinet of eleven secretaries. They supervise the state agencies, which are under the direct control of the governor.[4] Nine of the secretaries preside over the executive office of their respective areas.[5]

Executive departments of Massachusetts
Executive Office of Administration and FinanceMichael J HeffernenAppellate Tax Board
Bureau of the State House
Civil Service Commission
Department of Revenue
Developmental Disabilities Council
Division of Administrative Law Appeals
Division of Capital Asset Management
State Library
Group Insurance Commission
Healthy Policy Commission
Health Resources Division
Office on Disability
Operational Services Division
Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission
Teacher’s Retirement Board
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental AffairsKathleen A. TheohadiresDepartment of Agricultural Resources
Department of Conservation and Recreation
Department of Energy Resources
Department of Environmental Protection
Department of Fish and Game
Department of Public Utilities
State Reclamation Board
Executive Office of Health and Human ServicesMarylou SuddersDepartment of Children and Families
Department of Developmental Services
Department of Elder Affairs
Department of Mental Health
Department of Public Health
Department of Transitional Assistance
Department of Veterans’ Services
Department of Youth Services
Department of Public Health
Office of Refugees and Immigrants
Commission for the Blind
Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Rehabilitation Commission
Soldiers Homes in Chelsea and Holyoke
Executive Office of Housing and Economic DevelopmentMike KennealyConsumers Affairs and Business Regulation
Department of Business Development
Department of Housing and Community Development
Department of Telecommunications and Cable
Division of Banks
Division of Insurance
Division of Professional Licensure
Division of Standards
Massachusetts Marketing Partnership
Executive Office of Labor and Workforce DevelopmentRosalin AcostaDepartment of Career Services
Department of Industrial Accidents
Department of Labor Relations
Department of Labor Standards
Department of Unemployment Assistance
Executive Office of Public Safety and SecurityThomas TurcoDepartment of Criminal Justice Information Systems
Department of Correction
Department of Fire Services
Department of Public Safety
Department of State Police
Emergency Management Agency
Merit Rating Board
Military Division
Municipal Police Training Committee
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
Parole Board
Sex Offender Registry Board
Executive Office of Technology Services and SecurityCurtis M. Wood
James Peyser
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Department of Higher Education
Public Colleges and Universities
Executive Office of Transportation and Public WorksJamey Tesler


Marble lobby with statues, columns and a flight of steps

State House interior

The state legislature is formally known as the Massachusetts General Court, reflecting its colonial-era judicial duties. It has two houses: the 40-member Senate and the 160-member House of Representatives. Members of both houses have two-year terms. The Speaker of the House presides over the House of Representatives and controls the flow of legislation. The President is the presiding officer of the Senate.

The General Court is responsible for enacting the state’s laws. A bill signed by the governor, or passed by two-thirds of both houses over his or her veto, becomes law. Its session laws are published in the , which are codified as the General Laws of Massachusetts. On June 9, 2017, S&P Global Ratings downgraded Massachusetts’ bond rating to AA (the third-highest tier) due to the legislature’s inability to replenish the state’s rainy day fund in the face of above-average economic growth.[6]

Senate leadershipHouse leadership
Senate positionSenatorPartySenate districtHouse positionRepresentativePartyHouse district
President of the Senate

Karen Spilka

Democrat2nd Middlesex and NorfolkSpeaker of the House

Ronald Mariano

Democrat3rd Norfolk
President pro tempore

Will Brownsberger

Democrat2nd Suffolk and MiddlesexSpeaker pro temporeKate HoganDemocrat3rd Middlesex
Majority Leader

Cynthia Stone Creem

Democrat1st Middlesex and NorfolkMajority Leader

Claire D. Cronin

Democrat11th Plymouth
Minority Leader

Bruce Tarr

Republican1st Essex and MiddlesexMinority LeaderBradley Jones Jr.Republican20th Middlesex


The judiciary is the branch of the government that interprets and applies state law, ensures equal justice under law, and provides a mechanism for dispute resolution. The Massachusetts court system consists of the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, and seven trial-court departments.

Supreme Judicial Court

Judicial power is centered in the Supreme Judicial Court, which oversees the court system. In addition to its appellate functions, the Supreme Judicial Court is responsible for the governance of the judiciary and the bar, makes (or approves) rules for the operation of the courts and, on request, provides advisory opinions to the governor and legislature on legal issues. The Supreme Judicial Court also oversees affiliated judicial agencies, including the Board of Bar Overseers, the Board of Bar Examiners, the Clients’ Security Board, the Massachusetts Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, and Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services.

PositionNameBornBegan serviceMandatory retirementAppointed byLaw school
Chief JusticeKimberly S. Budd (1966-10-23) October 23, 1966 (age 55)December 1, 2020[a]2036Charlie Baker (R)Harvard
Senior Associate JusticeFrank Gaziano (1963-09-08) September 8, 1963 (age 58)August 18, 20162034Charlie Baker (R)Suffolk
Associate JusticeDavid A. Lowy1959/1960 (age 61–62)August 24, 20162029/2030Charlie Baker (R)Boston University
Associate JusticeElspeth B. Cypher (1959-02-26) February 26, 1959 (age 62)March 31, 2017[7]2029Charlie Baker (R)Suffolk
Associate JusticeScott L. Kafker (1959-04-24) April 24, 1959 (age 62)August 21, 20172029Charlie Baker (R)Chicago
Associate JusticeDalila Argaez Wendlandt1968/1969 (age 52–53)December 4, 20202038/2039Charlie Baker (R)Stanford
Associate JusticeSerge Georges Jr.1969/1970 (age 51–52)[8]December 16, 20202039/2040Charlie Baker (R)Suffolk
  1. ^ Associate Justice from August 24, 2016 to December 1, 2020.

Appeals Court

The Appeals Court the state appellate court, which means that the justices review decisions made in the Trial Courts. The Appeals Court also has jurisdiction over appeals from final decisions of three State agencies: the Appellate Tax Board, the Industrial Accident Board and the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board. The Appeals Court consists of a chief justice and twenty-four associate justices.[9]

Trial courts

Superior Court

District Court

Land Court

Housing Court

Juvenile Court

Probate and Family Court

Boston Municipal Court

County government

Only the southeastern third of the state has county governments; in western, central, and northeastern Massachusetts, traditional county-level government was eliminated during the late 1990s. District attorneys and sheriffs are elected by constituencies which mainly follow county boundaries, and are funded by the state budget.[10][11] Although most county governments have been abolished, all counties still have a sheriff’s department which operates correctional facilities and service of process in the county.


Sheriffs in Massachusetts
County sheriffs officeSheriff[12]PartyWebsite
BarnstableJames M. CummingsRepublicanLink
BerkshireThomas BowlerDemocratLink
BristolThomas HodgsonRepublicanLink
DukesRobert OgdenDemocratLink
EssexKevin CoppingerDemocratLink
FranklinChristopher DonelanDemocratLink
HampdenNick CocchiDemocratLink
HampshirePatrick CahillaneDemocratLink
MiddlesexPeter KoutoujianDemocratLink
NantucketJames PerelmanDemocratLink
PlymouthJoseph McDonald, Jr.RepublicanLink
SuffolkSteven TompkinsDemocratLink
WorcesterLewis EvangelidisRepublicanLink

District attorney

District attorneys are elected in 11 districts and serve as a public prosecutor representing the Commonwealth during criminal prosecutions. Most district attorneys are elected within the boundaries of a single county, and the district courts they operate in are within that county. The exception is Hampshire and Franklin Counties and the Town of Athol which make up the Northwestern District; and Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket Counties which make up the Cape and Islands District. Some districts that follow traditional county lines are officially known by a different name than the county, but they may also informally be called by the county name.

District attorneys of Massachusetts
District (Counties)District attorney[13]PartyWebsite
Berkshire DistrictAndrea HarringtonDemocratLink
Bristol DistrictThomas Quinn, IIIDemocratLink
Cape and Islands District (Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket)Michael O’KeefeRepublicanLink
Eastern District (Essex)Jonathan BlodgetDemocratLink
Hampden DistrictAnthony GulluniDemocratLink
Middle District (Worcester)Joseph EarlyDemocratLink
NorfolkMichael MorrisseyDemocratLink
Northern (Middlesex)Marian RyanDemocratLink
Northwestern (Hampshire, Franklin)David SullivanDemocratLink
PlymouthTimothy CruzRepublicanLink
SuffolkRachael RollinsDemocratLink

Registry of deeds

All counties in Massachusetts have at least one registry of deeds, which is responsible for recording and holding copies of deeds, titles, and other land records within their district.[14] Each registry is run by an elected register of deeds, who serves for 6 year terms. Most counties have one registry, but some are divided into separate districts with their own registry. There are 21 registries.

Registry of deeds in Massachusetts
BarnstableBarnstableJohn F. MeadRepublican
BerkshireNorth BerkshireMaria T. ZiembaDemocrat
Middle BerkshirePatsy HarrisDemocrat
South BerkshireMichelle L. Laramee-JenneyUnenrolled
BristolNorth BristolBarry J. AmaralDemocrat
Fall RiverBernard J. McDonald, IIIDemocrat
South BristolFrederick M. Kalisz, Jr.Democrat
DukesDukesPaulo C. DeoliveiriaDemocrat
EssexNorth EssexM. Paul IannuccilloDemocrat
South EssexJohn L. O’Brien, Jr.Democrat
FranklinFranklinScott A. CoteDemocrat
HampdenHampdenCheryl A. Coakley-RiveraDemocrat
HampshireHampshireMary K. OlberdingDemocrat
MiddlesexNorth MiddlesexRichard P. Howe, Jr.Democrat
South MiddlesexMaria C. CuratoneDemocrat
NantucketNantucketJennifer H. FerreiraUnenrolled
NorfolkNorfolkWilliam P. O’DonnellDemocrat
PlymouthPlymouthJohn R. Buckley, Jr.Democrat
SuffolkSuffolkStephen J. MurphyDemocrat
WorcesterNorth WorcesterKathleen Reynolds DaigneaultDemocrat
South WorcesterKathryn A. ToomeyDemocrat

Municipal government

Massachusetts shares with the five other New England states the New England town form of government. All land in Massachusetts is divided among cities and towns and there are no unincorporated areas, population centers, or townships. Massachusetts has four kinds of public-school districts: local schools, regional schools, vocational-technical schools, and charter schools.

Elections and politics

Massachusetts is known for its progressive politics, and is a stronghold of American Liberalism and the Democratic Party. In a 2018 Gallup poll Massachusetts was the state with the highest percentage of its population identifying as liberal and the lowest percentage identifying as conservative, at 35% and 21% respectively.[16] This and the high profile of well known politicians from Massachusetts such as the Kennedy family has led to the derogatory political phrase “Massachusetts Liberal“.


The state has an open-meeting law enforced by the attorney general, and a public-records law enforced by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.[17] A 2008 report by the Better Government Association and National Freedom of Information Coalition ranked Massachusetts 43rd out of the 50 US states in government transparency. It gave the state a grade of “F,” based on the time, cost, and comprehensiveness of access to public records.[18] Access to government records and the actions of the Secretary in enforcing the law became an issue in the 2014 campaign for the office. Incumbent William Galvin cited his previous requests that the legislature revise the Public Records Law to facilitate access.[19] According to the governor, he is exempt from the Public Records Law.[17] A reform law was signed on June 3, 2016 and took effect on January 1, 2017, imposing stricter time limits and lower costs.[20]

See also


  1. ^ “Home – Boards and Commissions”.
  2. ^ “Constitutionals & Independents”. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  3. ^ “Governor’s Council”. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  4. ^ “State Government Organizational Chart – Commonwealth of Massachusetts”.
  5. ^ 6A MGL 2
  6. ^ Miller, Joshua (June 9, 2017). “State bond rating downgraded in blow to Baker, Mass. politicians”. The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  7. ^ “Justice Margot Botsford retires from SJC – The Boston Globe”. The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on May 19, 2017. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  8. ^ Lisinski, Chris (December 17, 2020). “Randolph’s Serge Georges sworn in to Supreme Judicial court”. The Patriot Ledger. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  9. ^ “Appeals Court”. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  10. ^ “FY2009 Budget – District Attorneys General Appropriations Act”.
  11. ^ “FY2009 Budget – Sheriffs General Appropriations Act”.
  12. ^ “PD43+ » Search Elections”. PD43+. Retrieved April 18, 2020.
  13. ^ “PD43+ » Search Elections”. PD43+. Retrieved April 18, 2020.
  14. ^ “Massachusetts Land Records”. Retrieved April 15, 2020. (List of Massachusetts Registries of Deeds)
  15. ^ “PD43+ » Search Elections”. PD43+. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  16. ^ Inc, Gallup (February 22, 2019). “Conservatives Greatly Outnumber Liberals in 19 U.S. States”. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  17. ^ a b “FOREWORD”.
  18. ^ “States Failing FOI Responsiveness”.
  19. ^ “Secretary of State Galvin faces criticism for keeping government secrets – Metro – The Boston Globe”.
  20. ^ “Gov. Baker Signs Law Overhauling State’s Public Records System”.

Further reading

External links