Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Seal of the Governor of Massachusetts.svg
Seal of the Governor
Flag of the Governor of Massachusetts.svg
Standard of the Governor
Charlie Baker official photo (cropped).jpg
Incumbent
Charlie Baker

since January 8, 2015
Style
Status
Member ofGovernor's Council
Term lengthFour years, no term limit
PrecursorGovernor of Massachusetts Bay
Inaugural holderJohn Hancock
FormationOctober 25, 1780
(239 years ago)
 (1780-10-25)
DeputyLieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
Salary$151,800 (2018)[1]
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata

The governor of Massachusetts, officially the governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the chief executive of the Government of Massachusetts and serves as commander-in-chief of the commonwealth's military forces.

Massachusetts has a republican system of government, akin to a presidential system, where the governor acts as the head of government while having a distinct role from that of the legislative branch. The governor has far reaching political obligations ranging from ceremonial to political. While being the chief representative of Massachusetts as a US State, the governor also is in charge of the cabinet, signs bills into law, and has veto power. The governor is also a member of the Massachusetts Governor's Council, a popularly elected council with eight members who provide advice and consent on certain legal matters and appointments.[2]

Beginning with the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1629, the role of Governor has changed throughout its history in terms of powers and selection. The modern form of the position was created in the 1780 constitution, which called for the position of a "supreme executive magistrate".[3]

Governors are elected every four years during state elections on the first Tuesday of November after the 1st, the most recent being in 2018. Elected governors are then inaugurated on the first Thursday of the following January after the 1st.

The current governor is Charlie Baker.

History

The role of Governor has existed in Massachusetts since the Royal Charter of 1628. The original role of the governor was one of a president of the board of a joint-stock company, namely the Massachusetts Bay Company. The governor would be elected by freemen, who were shareholders of the company. These shareholders were mostly colonists themselves who fit certain religious requirements. The governor acted in a vice-regal manner, overseeing the governance and functioning of the colony. Originally they were supposed to reside in London, as was the case with other colonial company governors, although this protocol was broken when John Winthrop was appointed Governor. The governor served as the executive of the colony, originally elected annually, they were joined by a Council of Assistants. This council was a group of magistrates who performed judicial functions, acted as an upper house of the General Court, and provided advice and consent to the governor. The early governors of Massachusetts Bay were staunchly Puritan colonists who wished to form a state that coincided with religious law.[4]

With the founding of the Dominion of New England, the New England colonies were combined with the Province of New York, Province of West Jersey, and the Province of East Jersey. During this period (1686-1689) Massachusetts had no governor of its own. Instead there existed a royally appointed governor who resided in Boston and served at the King's pleasure. Though there existed a council which served as a quasi-legislature, however the logistics of calling the council to meet were so arduous that the Dominion was essentially governed by the Crown through the Royal Governor. The reason for the creation of such a post was there existed tremendous hostility between the Kingdom of England and the colonists of Massachusetts Bay. In an effort to bring the colonies under tighter control the Crown dismantled the old assembly system and created the Viceroy system based on the Spanish model in New Spain. This model of government was greatly disliked by the colonists all throughout British North America but especially in New England where colonists at one time did have some semblance of democratic and local control. With the Glorious Revolution and the Boston Revolt the Dominion was abolished in 1689.[5]

With the creation of the Massachusetts Charter in 1691, the role of civilian governor was restored in Massachusetts Bay. Now the Province of Massachusetts Bay, the colony then encompassed the territory of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Plymouth Colony, and areas of what is now the state of Maine. The governor however would not be chosen by the electorate, instead the position would remain a royal appointment. In order to ease tensions with royal authorities and the colonists the General Court was reestablished and given significant powers. This created acrimony between the governors and the assembly of the General Court. The governor could veto any decision made by the assembly and had control over the militia, however the General Court had authority of the treasury and provincial finances. This meant that in the event the governor did not agree with or consent with the rulings and laws of the General Court then the assembly would threaten to withhold any pay for the governor and other Royal Officers.[6]

From 1765 on the unraveling of the Province into a full political crisis only increased the tensions between the governor and the people of Massachusetts Bay. Following the passage of the Stamp Act Governor Thomas Hutchinson had his home broken into and ransacked. The early stages of the American Revolution saw political turmoil in Massachusetts Bay. With the passage of the Intolerable Acts the then Royal Governor Thomas Gage dissolved the General Court and began to govern the province by decree. In 1774 the Massachusetts Provincial Congress was formed as an alternative revolutionary government to the royal government in Boston. With Massachusetts Bay declaring its independence in May of 1776 the role of Governor was vacant for four years. The executive role during this time was filled by the Governor's Council, the Committee of Safety, and the president of the Congress when in session.[7]

With the adoption of the Constitution of Massachusetts in 1780 the role of an elected civilian governor was restored. John Hancock was elected as the first governor of the independent commonwealth on October 25th, 1780.[8]

Constitutional role

Part the Second, Chapter II, Section I, Article I of the Massachusetts Constitution reads,

There shall be a supreme executive magistrate, who shall be styled, The Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and whose title shall be – His Excellency.

The governor of Massachusetts is the chief executive of the commonwealth, and is supported by a number of subordinate officers. He, like most other state officers, senators, and representatives, was originally elected annually. In 1918 this was changed to a two-year term, and since 1966 the office of governor has carried a four-year term. The governor of Massachusetts does not receive a mansion, other official residence, or housing allowance. Instead, he resides in his own private residence. The title "His Excellency" is a throwback to the royally appointed governors of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The first governor to use the title was Richard Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont, in 1699; since he was an Earl, it was thought proper to call him "Your Excellency." The title was retained until 1742, when an order from King George II forbade its further use. However, the framers of the state constitution revived it because they found it fitting to dignify the governor with this title.[9]

The governor also serves as commander-in-chief of the commonwealth's armed forces.

Succession

According to the Massachusetts State Constitution:

Whenever the chair of the governor shall be vacant, by reason of his death, or absence from the commonwealth, or otherwise, the lieutenant governor, for the time being, shall, during such vacancy, perform all the duties incumbent upon the governor, and shall have and exercise all the powers and authorities, which by this constitution the governor is vested with, when personally present.[10]

The Constitution does not use the term "acting governor," but the practice in Massachusetts has been that the lieutenant governor retains his or her position and title as "lieutenant governor" and becomes acting governor, not governor. The lieutenant governor, when acting as governor, is referred to as "the lieutenant-governor, acting governor" in official documents.[11]

Despite this terminology, the Massachusetts courts have found that the full authority of the office of the governor devolves to the lieutenant governor upon vacancy in the office of governor, and that there is no circumstance short of death, resignation, or impeachment that would relieve the acting governor from the full gubernatorial responsibilities.[citation needed]

The first use of the succession provision occurred in 1785, five years after the constitution's adoption, when Governor John Hancock resigned the post, leaving Lieutenant Governor Thomas Cushing as acting governor. Most recently, Jane Swift became acting governor upon the resignation of Paul Cellucci.

When the constitution was first adopted, the Governor's Council was charged with acting as governor in the event that both the governorship and lieutenant governorship were vacant. This occurred in 1799 when Governor Increase Sumner died in office on June 7, 1799, leaving Lieutenant Governor Moses Gill as acting governor. Acting Governor Gill never received a lieutenant and died on May 20, 1800, between that year's election and the inauguration of Governor-elect Caleb Strong. The Governor's Council served as the executive for ten days; the council's chair, Thomas Dawes was at no point named governor or acting governor.

Article LV of the Constitution, enacted in 1918, created a new line of succession: