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Structure of the Georgia Executive Branch

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  • 0:00 Executive Branch of Georgia
  • 0:25 The Governor
  • 2:14 Lieutenant Governor
  • 3:20 State Officers
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

Georgia's executive branch is in many ways similar to that of the federal government, but in many other ways, it is quite different. Above all else, it is constantly changing with different groups gaining and losing power, as this lesson shows.

Executive Branch of Georgia

Like many other states, Georgia's government strongly mirrors that of the United States federal government. However, there are some differences. In the United States federal government, only the offices of the president and vice president are elected. As we'll see, Georgia takes a different approach to filling the heads of certain state positions. Still, the Georgia state executive branch, the part of the Georgian government that is run by the governor and includes more than 100,000 employees, has undergone many changes over the past years.

The Governor

By far the most powerful office in the executive branch - and whole government - of Georgia is that of governor. The governor has many responsibilities. First and foremost, he is the head of state, meaning that he represents Georgia to other states and to the media.

However, he is also the head of government, which grants him the ability to introduce legislation, guide government programs, and set no small part of the legislative agenda. A massive part of this responsibility is the budget. Unlike the federal budget, every state must balance its budget every year, and there are many pressing needs. Some of the largest expenses for the state of Georgia are education, transportation, and salaries for other state employees.

Many of those other state employees serve in either the Georgia state police or the Georgia National Guard. The state police serve not only as highway patrols but also as the highest law enforcement body in the state. Meanwhile, the National Guard is the successor to the militias guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Commanded by the governor, it can be used in disaster relief or can be nationalized by the president to perform federal duties at home or abroad.

Another changing aspect of the governor's role in the state is how he interacts with the bureaucracy that runs many state institutions. Over the past decades, the powers of the governor and the rest of the elected executives have grown with the limiting of the power of the bureaucracy. In the past, determined bureaucrats could simply outlast elected officials. Now these bureaucrats can be fired by the elected individuals.

Lieutenant Governor

Directly below the governor in importance is his deputy, the lieutenant governor. However, just because the lieutenant governor is the deputy to the governor does not mean that he or she is necessarily from the same party. While president and vice president may be on one ticket in federal elections, the governor and lieutenant governor of Georgia can be from two different parties. As a result, the role of the lieutenant governor can change depending on how the governor feels about him or her. In past instances when the two were from the same party, the governor gave the lieutenant governor plenty of responsibilities, ranging from choosing the head of legislative committees to being able to really guide the proceedings of the legislature in a way that the vice president of the United States could only dream of doing.

Meanwhile, in other years, the powers of the lieutenant governor have been limited when he is of a different party than the governor. In those cases, the power is largely limited to exactly what is prescribed in the Georgia Constitution - act as a replacement governor if one is ever needed during that term.

State of Officers

Whereas the president gets to appoint his cabinet on the advice and confirmation of the U.S. Senate, a number of state officers in Georgia are directly elected by the people. Six of these are particularly important. The secretary of state is elected to limit corruption, register businesses, and promote investment. It's a wide-ranging office, but with that range comes significant power. The attorney general works to make sure that the actions of the government are legal, and represents the state in any criminal prosecutions. Of course, the attorney general may not be present at every individual court case; think of him more like the head of a big company. And a state superintendent of education works to make sure that Georgia's schools and universities prepare the next generation with the tools they need to succeed.

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