Florida Government: Structure & Branches

Instructor: Mary Ruth Sanders Bracy

Mary Ruth teaches college history and has a PhD.

In this lesson, we will learn about the structure and branches that constitute the state government of Florida. Florida has a system similar to the federal government, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

The Florida State Government

What is the structure of the Florida state government like? Is it the same or different from the federal government?

In this lesson, we will learn about the state government of Florida and its different branches.

The State Flag of Florida
The State Flag of Florida

The Executive Branch

Like the federal government, the state government of Florida has an executive branch. The executive branch is made up of three different parts: the Office of the Governor, the Cabinet, and State Agencies and Organizations.

The Office of the Governor

The governor is the most prominent government official and chief executive of the State of Florida and is responsible for administering the laws passed by the legislature and abiding by the decisions of the judicial branch. In Florida, the governor is assisted by a lieutenant governor, who runs on the same ticket (and therefore will be from the same political party as the governor). Gubernatorial elections are held in Florida every four years, and governors are limited to two elected terms in office.

The first governor of Florida was Andrew Jackson, who served as Federal Military Commissioner in 1821 before Florida became a state. Florida was granted statehood in 1845 and the current system of electing governors has been in place ever since.

The Cabinet

Something that makes Florida unique is that it has a Cabinet that is equal to the governor in certain respects. In 1968, concerned about one person seizing too much power, Florida voters changed the language of the state constitution to ensure that members of the Cabinet could be independent decision-makers. Originally six elected positions, the number was reduced to three in January 2003. Each of the three officials is responsible for the administration of at least one state department, and each has equal standing to the governor on issues that involve their department. Cabinet members include:

  1. The Attorney General
  2. The Chief Financial Office
  3. The Commissioner of Agriculture

These three individuals oversee a variety of different departments, including the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Department of Revenue, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and the Florida Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission.

State Agencies and Organizations

In addition to the Office of the Governor and the Cabinet, there are many state agencies that help the executive branch function. Some of these are led by people who the governor appoints; others are headed by career civil servants. Some of the many state agencies include:

  1. Agency for Persons with Disabilities
  2. Department of Law Enforcement
  3. Department of Education
  4. Department of Elder Affairs
  5. Division of Emergency Management

There is even a Department of Citrus, which regulates and markets Florida's orange production!

Legislative Branch

The legislative branch of the Florida state government makes laws and appropriates funds. Like the federal government, the Florida Legislature is bicameral: it has two parts, the House of Representatives and the Senate. These two groups share the responsibilities of governing, including passing laws and creating a state budget.

The Florida House of Representatives

The House of Representatives is made up of 120 members from districts across the state of Florida and meets in the state capital building in Tallahassee. Representatives serve two-year terms and are limited to serving four of them consecutively (so, a person can only serve 8 years in the legislature in a row). However, if a representative sits out a term and then decides to run again, their term limits start over, which means they can effectively serve in the state legislature for decades with short breaks between terms.

The House of Representatives is led by the Speaker of the House, who is elected by his colleagues to manage the operations and see bills through the process of becoming laws.

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