Structure of the Arizona Executive Branch

Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Arizona has an executive branch of government just like the federal government does, but it is not structured the same way. In this lesson, you'll learn about how Arizona's executive branch is structured and the various parts of it.

Arizona Executive - Purpose

Did you know that not all states arrange their government in the same way the federal government does? Usually they are similar, but there can be some important differences.

Arizona's government consists of three branches of government just like the US federal government. It has an executive, legislative, and judicial branch.

The executive branch of Arizona's government is charged with implementing and enforcing the laws much like the executive branch of the federal government. However, unlike the federal government, Arizona has a plural executive. Let's take a look.

Plural Executive

A plural executive structure means that that executive power is distributed to more than one executive who are elected by the citizens of the state. You can contrast this with the unitary structure of the executive branch of the federal government where all executive power is vested in one single person - the President. The president certainly delegates his executive authority, but ultimately all executive authority is traced back to the president.

This is not the case in a plural executive. You may think that that governor in Arizona holds all executive power there, but that's not so. While a plural executive ensures that all the power doesn't reside in the hands of just one person, it also means that you might end up with a divided government. In other words, people from different political parties may be elected to different executive positions at the same time, and may not be all that keen on working together.

Imagine the US executive branch being run by Republicans and Democrats at the same time, and you may get the picture of how divided a plural executive government may become.

Now, let's take a look at these executive positions.

Arizona's Executive Structure

Arizona's plural executive consists of seven executive offices:

  • Governor
  • Secretary of State
  • Attorney General
  • State Treasurer
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Corporation Commission
  • State Mine Inspector

The Governor is probably the most powerful of all the executive branch offices. The Governor serves as primary representative of Arizona to other states, the federal government, and the world. The Governor also serves as the leader of the state, but keep in mind that this leadership doesn't entitle them to complete obedience from the other executive officers. The Governor is also in charge of the day-to-day operations of Arizona's executive branch much like the chief executive officer of a corporation. The Governor is also in charge of the Arizona National Guard.

The Secretary of State is another important official. Note that this office is absolutely nothing like the position of Secretary of State in the federal government, which involves international affairs. The Arizona Secretary of State is responsible for administering elections held in Arizona. This official also preserves Arizona's laws and public records, and is first in line to succeed the governor should the governor resign, die, or otherwise be removed from office.

The Attorney General is a powerful office in Arizona's executive branch. The Attorney General is the top law enforcement official in the state and serves as Arizona's representative in legal matters. If the state gets sued, for example, it's the Attorney General's office that defends it. The Attorney General also writes legal opinions on the interpretation of enacted legislation that other executive agencies will follow. They are charged with prosecuting large-scale crimes that affect citizens across the entire state, such as securities fraud or gambling. The office is also responsible for supervising Arizona county attorneys, making sure they perform their duties professionally and within the confines of the law.

The State Treasurer manages the state's money and serves as the state's chief financial officer. This official is therefore responsible for collecting the revenue the state earns, keeping it safe, and investing it wisely. They also disburse state funds (e.g., paying the bills and funding projects). For example, if you work as a state employee, the Treasurer signs your paycheck.

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