Know Your Elected Officials
As a United States citizen, you have the opportunity to elect individuals to represent your interests at the local, state and federal level. The following is a brief description of the responsibilities and qualifications for a variety of elected officials.
NEW YORK CITY ELECTED OFFICIALS
Mayor (www.nyc.gov/mayor) - The Mayor is the Chief Executive Officer of the City. In NYC, the Mayor is elected for a term of four years, and may only serve two terms. The Mayor defines public policy, submits budget proposals to the City Council and endorses legislation for the city. The Mayor can sign into law or veto (reject) any bill passed by the City Council.
Public Advocate for the City of New York (www.pubadvocate.nyc.gov) - An independently elected public official, the Public Advocate represents the consumer of City services. He or she reviews and investigates complaints about City services, assesses whether agencies are responsive to the public, and recommends improvements in agency programs and complaint handling procedures. The Public Advocate is elected to serve a term of four years. There are no restrictions on the number of terms he/she may serve.
City Comptroller (www.comptroller.nyc.gov) - The Comptroller is the Chief Financial Officer for New York City. The Comptroller monitors every aspect of the City’s finances, including auditing, advising, and making recommendations about City government spending. The City Comptroller is elected to serve a term of four years, with no restrictions on the number of terms he/she may serve.
New York City Borough Presidents (in Queens: www.queensbp.org) - The Borough Presidents are the executive officials of each borough. They work with the Mayor and City Council to determine budget priorities, oversee land use issues, and monitor city services within their own boroughs. The Borough Presidents appoint members to the City’s Community Boards (Community Board members serve without pay). Borough Presidents may only serve two four-year terms.
New York City Council (www.nyccouncil.info) - The City Council is the legislative branch of city government, and thus, creates local laws. In addition to its legislative role and oversight powers over City agencies, the Council approves the city’s budget and has decision-making powers over land use issues. Each Council member represents a district of approximately 157,000 people. There are 51 councilmanic districts in New York City, fourteen of which are from Queens.
District Attorneys (in Queens - www.queensda.org) - District Attorneys are county officials whose principle duty is to uphold the New York State Constitution by enforcing state laws. Districts Attorneys investigate and prosecute those involved in criminal activities. They are elected to serve a term of four years. There are no restrictions on the numbers of terms served.
STATE ELECTED OFFICIALS
Governor (www.state.ny.us/governor) - The Governor is the Chief Executive Officer of the State and the Commander-in-Chief of the state militia. The Governor is responsible for carrying out the laws of the state. The Governor signs into law or vetoes (rejects) legislation passed by the Legislature. The Governor is also responsible for presenting a proposed state budget. The Governor must be at least 30 years old, a United States citizen and a resident of New York for at least five years prior to election. The Governor can serve an unlimited number of four-year terms.
Lieutenant Governor (www.state.ny.us/governor/ltgov) - The Lieutenant Governor must have the same qualifications for office as the Governor. The Lieutenant Governor is president of the State Senate, but only votes in the case of a tie. If the Governor is unable to perform the duties of his/her office, the powers and duties of the office shall pass to the Lieutenant Governor for the remainder of the term.
State Comptroller (www.osc.state.ny.us) - The Comptroller is the Chief Fiscal Officer of the State, fiscal monitor of New York City and member of the Financial Control Board. He is also the State Auditor of City agencies and public authorities, all other state municipalities, agencies and public authorities and also provides legal advice to local governments on fiscal matters. The Comptroller manages the State’s accounting and financial reporting systems, pays its bills, and, as sole trustee, manages and invests the assets of the State and local government pension systems. The State Comptroller is elected to serve a term of four years.
State Attorney General (www.oag.state.ny.us) - As New York State’s Chief Legal Officer, the Attorney General defends and protects the people of New York. The Attorney General’s office is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases, Medicaid fraud, and organized crime activities. The Attorney General also has the authority to defend and protect the public interest in our courts by enforcing Anti-trust laws, overseeing charities, enforcing civil rights laws, and prosecuting individuals and businesses for consumer fraud. The Attorney General must have the same qualifications for office as the Governor, and may serve an unlimited number of four-year terms.
New York State Legislature - The legislative power of the State is vested in the Senate and Assembly. A Senator or a Member of the Assembly must be at least 18 years old, a citizen of the United States, a resident of the State for five years, and a resident of their Assembly or Senate district for the twelve months immediately preceding election. Senators and Assemblymembers are elected during even numbered years to a two-year term. There is no limit on the number of terms they may serve. The first meeting of each regular session of the Senate and Assembly is held on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January. The Legislature meets every year, typically for several days each week from January through June and at the call of the Legislative leaders at other times during the year. The Senate and Assembly work together to approve a state budget. They also meet jointly to elect members to the Board of Regents.
New York State Senators (www.senate.state.ny.us) - Currently, the Senate consists of 62 Senators. Senators propose new laws in the form of legislative bills. In addition to approving legislative proposals and constitutional amendments, the Senate confirms or rejects nominations made by the Governor for the filling of certain State and judicial offices. It also sits at times as a court of impeachment. The Lieutenant Governor, while not a member of the Senate, is its President and presiding officer. The Majority Leader is the Temporary President and presides in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor.
New York State Assemblymembers (www.assembly.state.ny.us) - The Assembly currently consists of 150 Assemblymembers. Assemblymembers introduce bills which are ideas for new laws. The Speaker of the Assembly, who is elected by the 150 Members, assigns the bill to the appropriate committee. The committee members (every Assemblymember sits on several committees) study the bill and vote on whether to defeat it, hold it for further study, or send it on the full Assembly for a vote. A bill may be examined by several committees before reaching the full Assembly. On the floor of the Assembly, the bill’s sponsor explains it and defends it if it is debated. A vote on the bill is taken. If it passes, it goes to the Senate where it goes through a similar process. If both houses pass the bill, it goes to the Governor who can either sign it into law, or veto it. If the governor vetoes it, the legislature can override the veto by a two-thirds vote, thus making the bill a law.
FEDERAL ELECTED OFFICIALS
President of the United States (www.whitehouse.gov/president) - The President is the Chief Executive Officer of the United Sates and Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. The President is the chief administrator of the executive branch of the federal government and, with the approval of the U.S. Senate, makes treaties and appoints Supreme Court Justices, ambassadors and other U.S. officials. The President announces to Congress the state of the nation, makes policy recommendations, and signs into law or vetoes (rejects) legislation passed by Congress. To be eligible, a person must be at least 35 years old, a natural born citizen, and have lived in the United States for at least 14 years. The President is elected for a term of four years, and cannot be elected to more than two terms.
Vice President of the United States (www.whitehouse.gov/vicepresident) - The Vice President assists the President in his/her duties. The Vice President serves as President of the Senate, but only votes in the case of a tie. In the event the President dies, resigns, is removed from office, or is unable to perform the duties of the office, the Vice President assumes the powers of the President.
The Congress of the United States - The legislative powers of the United States are vested in the Congress, which consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The first meeting of each regular session of Congress is held at noon on the third day of January. Each House determines the rules of its proceedings, is the judge of the qualifications of its own members, and may punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, by a two-thirds vote, expel a member.
United States Senators (www.senate.gov) - The United States Senate consists of one hundred Senators (two from each of the fifty States), elected for a term of six years. Senators make laws and approve Presidential appointments and treaties. A Senator must be at least 30 years of age, a citizen of the United States for at least nine years, and an inhabitant of the State from which he was chosen. The President of the Senate Pro Tem is the third in line in the order of succession to "act as President" of the United States in case of a vacancy (following the Vice President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives).
The House of Representatives (www.house.gov) - The House of Representatives consists of 435 representatives in Congress - called Congressmen and Congresswomen. House members make laws and determine spending priorities. Seats in the House of Representatives are allocated among the states according to their population. No person shall be eligible to sit in the House of Representatives who is not at least 25 years of age, a citizen of the United States for at least seven years, and an inhabitant of the State from which he is chosen. There is no limit on the number of two-year terms he/she may serve.