Florida government has three branches:
- Executive – administers and enforces the law (Governor & Cabinet)
- Legislative – makes the laws (Senate & House)
- Judicial – interprets the law (Courts)
Each branch is relatively independent and has it’s own responsibilities but is influenced by checks and balances from the other branches.
Florida’s Capital is Tallahassee.
Florida’s Executive Branch of Government
The Executive branch of Government in Florida is led by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Cabinet. This is the branch of the government that executes and enforces laws.
The Governor is elected for a four year term and may serve two terms in succession. The Governor is the chief executive of the government of Florida and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the state.
The Lieutenant Governor is also elected for a four year term congruent with the Governor and will become the governor should the current governor not complete their term. The Lieutenant Governor’s duties are defined by the Governor and the legislature. if the Lieutenant Governor resigns prior to the end of the 4 year term, the Governor will appoint an incumbent to fill the position.
The Cabinet consists of an Attorney General, a Chief Financial Officer, and a Commissioner of Agriculture. The members are independently elected every four years and have equal footing to the Governor on issues under the Cabinet’s jurisdiction.
The Florida Attorney General is the state’s chief legal officer and responsible for the Department of Legal Affairs.
The Florida Chief Financial Officer is the head of the Florida Department of Financial Services and oversees the states finances and fiscal well being.
The Florida Commissioner of Agriculture is the head of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and is responsible for consumer regulation and the protection of goods to market.
Florida’s Legislative Branch of Government
The Legislative Branch of Government is the law making branch that affects how cities and counties operate. Composed of 2 houses:
The Florida Senate is one-half of the Florida Legislature, which is the law-making branch of Florida government. The Senate is composed of 40 members, each elected from single-member districts across the state to a 4 year term.
Senators are chosen by the citizens of Florida to represent them and the area (district) where they live. Each member of the Senate must live in the district that he or she represents. Senators are elected to serve four-year terms.
“The Constitution of Florida asserts that “All political power is inherent in the people.” Our House is made up of what we call citizen legislators. From educators to attorneys, small business owners to physicians, CPAs to farmers, we are parents, grandparents, retirees, students, military and law enforcement officers–we truly do represent you in our diverse backgrounds, experiences, and professional lives. Representing a group of just 157,000 people per district allows your elected member to maintain a close connection to their local community, ensuring voices are heard.”
120 Members serve a 2 year term and can serve up to 4 terms. The House of Representatives are meant to represent the people of the area and can only be filled by election of the people.
The districts for both the Senate and the House of Representatives are based on population of residents and the areas are reappointed every 10 years to assure each Senate District and House District represents approximately the same number of residents.
Article III, Section 1 of the State Constitution states, “The legislative power of the state shall be vested in a legislature of the State of Florida, consisting of a senate composed of one senator elected from each senatorial district and a house of representatives composed of one member elected from each representative district.”
The Legislature, consisting of both houses, meets each year in Tallahassee for a regular 60-day session that may be extended if necessary or may meet for a special session, in order to make and pass laws for the state of Florida. In order for a new law to be passed, a bill must pass both houses and not be vetoed by the governor.
Florida’s Judicial Branch
The Judicial branch is branch of government that interprets the law. Florida’s Judicial branch is made up of several courts of varying authority.
- Supreme Court – highest court consisting of 7 members, each appointed by the governor and confirmed by a vote of the people. The Supreme Court hears appeals from trial court criminal cases where the death penalty was imposed and appeals from civil cases where the validity of the law is in question.
- 5 District Court of Appeals – hears appeals that are not appealable to the Supreme Court or Circuit Court.
- 20 Circuit Court – highest trial court in the state, divided into 20 judicial circuits with exclusive jurisdiction in all actions of law not vested in county courts. Hears appeals from county courts, civil actions ($15,000 or more), estate settlements, juveniles cases, tax assessment and real property cases, competency and involuntary hospitalization.
- 67 County Court – each county in Florida has it’s own court that handles misdemeanor cases, civil actions (less than $15,000), violations of municipal ordinances.