Mary Ruth teaches college history and has a PhD.
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 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.
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:
- The Attorney General
- The Chief Financial Office
- 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:
- Agency for Persons with Disabilities
- Department of Law Enforcement
- Department of Education
- Department of Elder Affairs
- Division of Emergency Management
There is even a Department of Citrus, which regulates and markets Florida's orange production!
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.
The Florida Senate
The Senate, which also meets in Tallahassee, is made up of 40 members. They serve four-year terms and they cannot run for reelection if they have served for eight consecutive years. This means that there is less turnover in the Senate than in the House, and members usually only serve two four-year terms. The President of the Senate presides over its day-to-day operations. He or she is elected by their peers and serves a two-year term.
The judicial branch of the Florida State Government has four different parts, each with its own responsibility:
- County Courts (One in each of Florida's 67 counties; oversee minor offenses such as traffic violations, misdemeanors, and small monetary claims.)
- Circuit Courts (Twenty throughout the state; deal with criminal prosecutions, issues with juveniles, property disputes, and other issues not assigned to the county courts.)
- District Courts of Appeal (Five throughout the state; hear appeals of cases from lower courts and have the power to overturn their decisions.)
- Supreme Court (The highest court in the state, headquartered in Tallahassee. It is required to review death penalty cases and district court decisions that invalidate state laws, and also can review other district court decisions.)
In this lesson, we learned about the state government of Florida.
There are three branches of the Florida state government: executive, legislative, and judicial.
The executive branch is made up of the Office of the Governor, the Cabinet, and State Agencies and Organizations. The governor is elected in a gubernatorial election every four years and serves along with a lieutenant governor.
The legislative branch, which is bicameral, consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Both of them meet in the State Capital building in Tallahassee to pass laws and set the state budget.
The judicial branch has four different parts, each with different responsibilities. The County Courts, Circuit Courts, District Courts of Appeal, and Supreme Court all hear different cases.
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