The Florida State Constitution declares that the
powers of state government be divided into three separate and
relatively independent branches -
Each branch is sovereign in its own area of responsibility,
but it is also influenced by the checks and balances from the
other branches. It is basically the same governmental model found
at the national level and in all 50 states. The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability provides an organizational chart of Florida's government structure. The Florida House of Representatives has published the 2013-2014 edition of the Florida Handbook, which includes an overview of Florida government.
The EXECUTIVE branch is the law-administering
and law-enforcing branch of the government. It is patterned along
the lines of a large corporation with the governor serving as
chairman of the board and the three independently elected cabinet
members serving as directors. The governor is elected for a four-year
term and may serve two terms in succession. The lieutenant governor
is elected as running mate of the governor. Members of the Cabinet are elected to four year terms with a two-term limit. All of the many agencies and departments
that are responsible for programs in Florida State government
are also part of the Executive Branch.
The Governor is responsible for day-to-day
operations of the state and is the chief law enforcement officer.
The governor appoints not only the heads of departments under
sole oversight of the governor, but also the heads of departments
that are under both the governor and Cabinet's oversight, although
at least three Cabinet members must agree to the appointments.
The governor also appoints members of several regulatory boards
By executive order, the governor may suspend from
office any state or county elected official who is not subject
to impeachment. The governor cannot suspend the lieutenant governor,
Cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, appellate judges, or circuit
court judges. They can be removed only by legislative impeachment.
The office of
Lieutenant Governor was authorized
in the 1968 revision of the Constitution, but duties of that office
were left to the discretion of the governor and the legislature.
The only Constitutional chore of this office-holder is to become
the governor should that office become vacant due to death, impeachment
trial, or incapacity. The Lieutenant Governor is elected on the
same ticket as governor and is chosen by the gubernatorial candidate
as running mate.
Florida's Constitution states that in addition to
a governor and lieutenant governor "there shall be a
composed of :
The Constitution declares that each Cabinet member
"shall exercise such powers and perform such duties as may
be prescribed by law." In effect, that gives the Cabinet
officers powers equal to the governor. This system violates a
basic rule of government. That is, giving an elected official
the authority to perform a duty and then be officially fully responsible,
for under this system the governor is held responsible but does
not have the authority or means to fulfill that responsibility.
The Senate and House affect every Floridian's life
through legislation relating to how cities and counties operate,
through appointment of state officials, through investigative
and budgetary matters, and through taxes. The legislative branch
is considered to be the most powerful of the state's three branches
SENATE has 40 members, each elected to
a four year term. Half the senate members are elected every two
years, providing for staggered terms. Senate districts are based
on population with each senator representing approximately the
same number of residents. To do so, some senators may represent
only one county or a portion of a county, while another senator
may represent multiple counties. The senate like the house is
reapportioned every 10 years when the federal census is released.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES has 120 members.
All are elected every two years during the general elections held
in even-numbered years. House districts are based on population
with each member representing approximately the same number of
residents. To do so, some members may represent only one county
or a portion of a county, while another may represent multiple
counties. The House like the Senate is reapportioned every 10
years when the federal census is released.
The JUDICIAL branch is the law-interpreting
branch. Its powers are exercised primarily through courts established
by the State Constitution. Florida's judicial branch consists
of a series of courts with differing levels of authority and jurisdictions.
This highest of state courts consists of seven members,
each appointed by the governor, and confirmed by a vote of the
people at the next general election. Each is appointed for a six-year
term. Justices select one of their own to be the chief justice for
a two-year term.
The Supreme Court hears appeals directly from trial
courts in criminal cases when the death penalty has been imposed,
and in civil cases when the trial court's decision passes on the
validity of a state or federal law, a treaty , or a provision
of the state or federal constitution or in cases concerning the
validity of revenue or general obligation bonds. All other appeals
must be processed through a district court of appeals.
District Court of Appeals
The state has five appellate districts. More than
50 judges sit on the five appeals courts, each elected to six-year
staggered terms. They have jurisdiction of all appeals not directly
appealable to the Supreme Court or to a circuit court. An appeals
court also may issue writs of mandamus, certiorari, prohibition,
quo warranto, and habeas corpus.
The Circuit Court is the state's highest trial court,
and has the most general jurisdiction. The state is divided
into 20 judicial circuits and circuit judges are elected to six-year
terms. In each circuit the judges choose from among themselves
a chief judge of that circuit.
Circuit courts have exclusive original jurisdiction
in all actions of law not vested in county courts, including all
civil actions involving $15,000 or more. Circuit courts also cover:
At least one county court judge is specified for
each county and is elected to a six-year term. County courts
handle misdemeanor cases over which the circuit court has no
authority, violations of municipal ordinances, and civil actions
involving less than $15,000.
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Last modified Friday June 13 2014