Government Overview
Washington, D.C. must simultaneously function as a city and a state. In its state role, D.C. has departments and agencies to:

Photo courtesy The Architect of the Capitol
The Supreme Court of the United States
  • preside over a court system
  • license drivers, businesses, and professionals
  • establish liquor laws
  • provide unemployment compensation and food and drug inspection
  • offer health care facilities
  • designate development zones
  • organize the lottery

Like other cities, executive, legislative, and judicial branches comprise the District government. The executive branch administers and manages the government. It is headed by the mayor and includes the Board of Education.


Photo courtesy The Architect of the Capitol
The Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress
The Council of D.C. serves as the legislative branch and is responsible for developing legislative initiatives and budget priorities as well as overseeing the performance of government agencies and the implementation of reforms to improve service delivery. In contrast to the states, D.C.'s laws and budget are reviewed and modified by Congress.

The judicial branch of the government in D.C. consists of a Federal Public Defender for the District of Columbia , the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Unlike the states, who can appoint their own, the President appoints the local judges in D.C.

D.C. citizens pay federal and local taxes like other citizens living in states, but they don't have the privilege, that other U.S. citizens have, to protect their interests. Citizens of Washington, D.C. have only non-voting representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives. These representatives, who can sit on committees, cannot even vote on bills affecting their District. Citizens of D.C. can vote for President and Vice President of the U.S., but have only had that right since the 1964 election.