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Kentucky Government

Kentucky's constitution provides for three branches of state government: legislative, judicial and executive.


Kentucky's General Assembly, or Kentucky Legislature, has two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate, with 38 members elected to four-year terms, and the House, with 100 members elected to two-year terms, meets annually in Frankfort. The session convenes on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January. In even-numbered years, sessions may not last more than 60 legislative days and cannot extend beyond April 15. In odd-numbered years, sessions may not last more than 30 legislative days and cannot extend beyond March 30. The Legislature has the power to enact all laws, subject to constitutional limitations. Revenue-raising measures must originate in the House; all other proposed laws may be introduced in either Chamber. The Governor may call the Kentucky Legislature into special session to consider specific matters.


Kentucky's judicial branch is comprised of four levels of courts. At the county level, District Courts decide the majority of legal matters in the state; Circuit Courts hear all civil cases involving more than $4,000. At the state level, the Court of Appeals considers the appeals from the Circuit Courts in both civil and criminal matters. The Kentucky Supreme Court reviews all judgments of Circuit Courts that impose sentences of death, imprisonment of 20 years or more, and other appeals at its discretion. All judges in Kentucky courts must be attorneys. District judges are elected to four-year terms; all others, eight years.


The Governor is the chief executive of the state and is elected to serve a four-year term. Other constitutional officers elected to four-year terms include the Lieutenant Governor, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. All may seek reelection to a second term. Executive policy is directed through 8 cabinets: Commerce Cabinet, Education Cabinet, Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, Finance and Administration Cabinet, Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, Personnel Cabinet and Transportation Cabinet. The executive branch also includes a number of independent agencies and regulatory commissions.

For more information on the Kentucky government, visit