Standing in front of a voting machine, Midge Guerrera, the series host, explains that there are three levels of government: a national government in Washington, a state government in Trenton, and local governments in our counties and towns. All begin with voting. She says that this program is about a visit to the State House in Trenton, which is the home of state government.
In the rotunda of the State House, Midge explains that the word democracy comes from the Greek word demos, meaning "people." Democracy means government by the people. But that doesn't mean all the people. At one time in New Jersey history if you didn't own property, or if you were a woman, or if you were an African American, or if you weren't twenty-one years of age, you couldn't vote. Furthermore, not everyone votes on every issue. We elect people to vote for us in Trenton, which is what we mean by representative government.
Karen Polling, our guide, takes the students into the General Assembly gallery, and explains that the state is divided into legislative districts, in which the voters elect one state senator and two members of the General Assembly from each district. Together these representatives constitute the two houses of the legislature.
She takes the students to the Senate floor, where she explains that to become a law a bill must pass both houses of the legislature. The students debate and vote on a bill to ban homework. After a bill passes both houses of the legislature, it must be either signed or vetoed by the governor. In the governor's outer office, Midge Guerrara explains that today the governor is elected directly by the voters, but the first governors of the state of New Jersey were elected by the legislature. A student, acting as governor, signs the "Homework Bill" into law.
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