A BRIEF OVERVIEW
EXECUTIVE BRANCHThe 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 and may succeed themselves for any number of terms. 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 and commissions.
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 Cabinet 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.
LEGISLATIVE BRANCHThe Legislative branch is the law-making branch and is composed of two houses - the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Legislature meets for a regular 60-day session each year. There may also be special and extended sessions if necessary.
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 of government.
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. They are: