The New Jersey Legislature is the legislative branch of the government of the U.S. state of New Jersey. In its current form, as defined by the New Jersey Constitution of 1947, the Legislature consists of two houses: the General Assembly and the Senate. The Legislature meets in the New Jersey State House, in the state capital of Trenton.
In 1775, representatives from New Jersey's 13 counties established a Provincial Congress to supersede the Royal Governor. In June 1776, this congress had authorized the preparation of a constitution, which was written within five days, adopted by the Provincial Congress, and accepted by the Continental Congress. The Constitution of 1776 provided for a bicameral legislature consisting of a General Assembly with three members from each county and a Legislative Council with one member from each county. All state officials, including the governor, were to be appointed by the Legislature under this constitution. The Vice-President of Council would succeed the Governor (who was the President of the Council) if a vacancy occurred in that office.
Accordingly, the first session of the Legislature convened on August 27, 1776. Legislative politics was defined in the following years by an intense rivalry between the Federalists, and later the Whigs (which dominated South Jersey and Essex, Hudson, and Middlesex Counties), and the Democratic Party (which was prominent in the northwest, the Shore region, and Bergen County).
The New Jersey Constitution of 1844 provided for a direct popular election of the governor, and gave him the power to veto bills passed by the Legislature. The General Assembly was expanded to 60 members, elected annually and apportioned to the counties based on population. The Legislative Council was renamed the Senate, and was to be composed of one member from each of the state's 19 counties, serving a three-year term.
During the Civil War, party allegiance became entrenched. Democrats usually won both houses until the Republicans gained control in 1893. A court ruling obtained by the Republicans provided that members of the General Assembly were to be elected from the counties at-large, rather than from election districts of unequal population.