Government of Florida
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The government of Florida comprises three branches of government: the executive branch consisting of the Governor of Florida and the other elected and appointed constitutional officers; the legislative branch, the Florida Legislature, consisting of the Senate and House, as well as other functions such as state auditors  and the utility-regulating Public Service Commission; and the judicial branch consisting of the Supreme Court of Florida and lower courts. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, and ratification.
Florida's capital is Tallahassee, located in Northeastern Leon County. The Florida State Capitol is located in the downtown Tallahassee, housing the executive and legislative offices as well as the state's legislative chambers.
Constitution and laws 
The government of the state of Florida is established and operated according to the Florida Constitution.The Florida Constitution defines the basic structures and operation of the government, its duties, responsibilities, and powers, and establishes the basic law of the state and guarantees various rights and freedoms of the people. Florida's first constitution was implemented as a U.S. territory and written in 1838, and on March 3, 1845, Florida was granted admission into the union as the 27th state. Throughout its history, Florida has been ruled by six different constitutions. The current Constitution of Florida was ratified on November 5, 1968, and modified by initiative and referendum several times since.
Article V of the Florida Constitution, relating to the Judicial Branch, was not included in the 1968 revision. Not until 1971 in a special session, did the Legislature pass Senate Joint Resolution 52-D proposing to the voters the "modern" Article V.
Power in Florida is divided among three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. The state delegates non-exclusive power to local municipal and county governments. However, home-rule charters can be established which provide significant local autonomy over the structure and operation of those governments.
Sovereign immunity laws ensure that action cannot be brought against the Florida government for more than $200,000, with an exception for breach of contract cases. Specifically, section 768.28, Florida Statutes, is a limited waiver of the state's sovereign immunity. It provides that neither the state nor its agencies or subdivisions is liable to pay a tort claim or a judgment by any one person over $100,000 or any claim or judgment over $200,000, when totaled with all other claims paid by the state or its agencies or subdivisions arising out of the same incident. The Supreme Court recognized the exception for breach of contract cases. The Court noted that the statutory waiver of sovereign immunity is related to torts and there is no analogous waiver in contract, but that the Legislature, by law, had authorized state entities to enter into contracts, so "the legislature has clearly intended that such contracts be valid and binding on both parties."
Legislative branch 
The Florida Constitution mandates a bicameral state legislature, consisting of a Florida Senate of 40 members and a Florida House of Representatives of 120 members. The two bodies meet in the Florida State Capitol. The Florida House of Representative members serve for two-year terms, while Florida Senate members serve staggered four-year terms, with 20 Senators up for election every two years. Members of both houses are term limited to serve a maximum of eight years.
The legislature's session is part-time, meeting for 60-day regular sessions annually. The regular session of the Florida Legislature commences on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March with the Governor's State of the State speech before a joint session and ends on the last Friday in April or the first Friday in May. The Florida Legislature often meets in special sessions, sometimes as many as a half dozen in a year, that are called for particular purposes, such as budget reduction or reforming property insurance. A special session may be called by the governor, by joint proclamation of the Speaker of the House and Senate President or by three-fifths vote of the members of both houses. Outside of these regular and special sessions, the members of both houses participate in county delegation meetings and interim committee meetings throughout the year, mostly from November to February in advance of the regular session.
Executive branch 
The executive branch of the government of Florida consists of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Florida Cabinet (which includes the Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture and Chief Financial Officer), and several executive departments. Each office term is limited for two four-year terms.
The Governor of Florida is the chief executive of the government of Florida and the chief administrative officer of the state responsible for the planning and budgeting for the state, and serves as chair when the Governor and the Florida Cabinet sit as a decision-making body in various constitutional roles. The Governor has the power to execute Florida's laws and to call out the state militia to preserve the public peace, being Commander-in-Chief of the state's military forces that not in active service of the United States. At least once every legislative session, the Governor is required to deliver an address to the Florida Legislature, referred to as the "State of the State Address", regarding the condition and operation of the state government and to suggest new legislation. The Governor is elected by popular election every four years, and may serve a maximum of two terms. The 45th Governor of Florida is Rick Scott, who was elected on November 2,2012
Florida is unique among U.S. states in having a strong cabinet-style government. Members of the Florida Cabinet are independently elected, and have equal footing with the Governor on issues under the Cabinet's jurisdiction. The Cabinet consists of the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Agriculture and the Chief Financial Officer. Along with the Governor, each member carries one vote in the decision making process. In the event of a tie, the side of the Governor is the prevailing side. Cabinet elections are held every four years, on even numbered years not divisible by four (such as 2002, 2006, etc.).
Attorney General 
The Attorney General is the state's chief legal officer. As defined in the Florida Constitution, the Attorney General appoints a statewide prosecutor who may prosecute violations of criminal law occurring in or affecting two or more judicial circuits. The current Attorney General of Florida is Pam Bondi. She was elected to the position on November 2, 2010. She is responsible for the Department of Legal Affairs.
Chief Financial Officer 
The duties as defined under the Constitution of Florida of the Chief Financial Officer include monitoring the states finances and fiscal well being, auditing and assuring that state programs are properly spending money and overseeing the proper management of the revenue and spending of the state. The current Chief Financial Officer is Jeff Atwater, Republican, who was elected on November 2, 2010.
Commissioner of Agriculture 
The Commissioner of Agriculture is the head of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). The current commissioner is Adam Putnam, who was elected on November 2, 2010.
Agencies and departments 
Executive branch agencies and departments:
Judicial branch 
Florida's state court system, officially titled the Florida State Courts System, was unified by a 1973 constitutional amendment. The system consists of:
- The Florida Supreme Court, the state supreme court; and
- The five District Courts of Appeal, which are intermediate appellate courts. These are the First District Court of Appeal (headquartered in Tallahassee), the Second District Court of Appeal (headquartered in Lakeland and with a branch in Tampa), the Third District Court of Appeal (headquartered in Miami), the Fourth District Court of Appeal (headquartered in West Palm Beach), and the Fifth District Court of Appeal (headquartered in Daytona Beach); and
- Two forms of trial courts: 20 circuit courts and 67 county courts, one for each of Florida counties.
The Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court serves as the chief administrative officer of the entire branch. The Office of the State Courts Administrator, largely housed in the Supreme Court Building in Tallahassee, assists the Chief Justice in administering the courts.
County courts have original jurisdiction over misdemeanor criminal cases and in civil cases whose value in controversy does not exceed $15,000. Circuit courts have original jurisdiction over felony criminal cases and civil cases whose value in controversy is $15,000 or greater, as well as in domestic relations, juvenile dependency, juvenile delinquency, and probate matters. Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe, Palm Beach and Hillsborough are the only counties that are coterminous with their respective judicial circuits. In the rest of the state, a single judicial circuit encompasses multiple counties within its jurisdiction.
Chief judges of the District Courts of Appeals and of the circuit courts retain substantial authority over the day-to-day operation of their courts. The chief judges of the 20 circuit courts also supervise the judges of the county courts within their jurisdictions. The circuit and county courts are where trials occur.
The right to a single appeal to one of the District Courts of Appeal is guaranteed in most circumstances. Further appeals to the Florida Supreme Court are available as matter of right only in limited circumstances (in capital punishment cases, appeal is automatic to the Supreme Court, bypassing the District Court of Appeal). If an appeal to the Supreme Court is not available as a matter of right, a party can still petition for discretionary review, though only a fraction of these petitions are granted. Supreme Court decisions and case law are binding upon all Florida courts. The decisions and case law precedent of each District Court of Appeal are binding upon all circuit and county courts within that district's jurisdiction. Case law and decisions from another District Court of Appeal are persuasive and often cited within the courts of other appellate districts, but are not binding precedent in those other districts unless no other Florida appellate court has addressed the issue in question. In the event of conflict between the precedent of different District Courts of Appeal, county and circuit courts must adhere to the case law of their own district, but may certify conflict with another District Court of Appeal decision for purposes of asking the Supreme Court to resolve the conflict (the courts may also certify a "question of great importance" to the Supreme Court for purposes of obtaining that Court's decision on the matter). District Courts of Appeal may recede from certain case law and precedent in subsequent decisions, or the Supreme Court may overrule a district court's precedent in favor of conflicting case law from another district.
Florida's parole system was abolished for crimes committed after October 1, 1983. Judges are granted limited discretion in establishing sentencing. However, prisoners convicted crimes prior to that date are still eligible for parole.
Local governments 
Local governments are established by the government of Florida and are given varying amounts of non-exclusive authority over their jurisdictions. The law governing the creation of these governments is contained both within the Florida Constitution and Florida Statutes. Local governments are incorporated in Florida by special acts of the Florida Legislature. There are four types of local governments in Florida: counties, municipalities, school districts, and special districts.
Both counties and cities may have a legislative branch (commissions or councils) and executive branch (mayor or manager) and local police, but violations are brought before a county court. Counties and municipalities are authorized to pass laws (ordinances), levy taxes, and provide public services within their jurisdictions. All areas of Florida are located within a county, but only some areas have been incorporated into municipalities. All municipalities are located within a county and the county jurisdiction overlays the municipal jurisdiction. Usually, if there is a conflict between a county ordinance and a municipal ordinance, the municipal ordinance has precedence within the municipality's borders; however, the overlaying county's ordinances have precedence if the overlaying county has been designated a charter county by the Florida Legislature.
Counties and municipalities may create community development agencies which may take part of the money from taxes on increases in property values from their area of interest. They then use the money received in reinvestment (improvements) in the area.
Florida consists of 67 counties, with most of Florida's counties named for local or national political leaders. Some are named for Spanish explorers or conquistadors, marking the influence of 200 years of Spanish rule. Natural features of the region, including rivers, lakes, and flora, are also commonly used for county names. Florida has counties named for participants on both sides of Second Seminole War: Miami-Dade County is partially named for Francis L. Dade, a Major in the U.S. Army at the time; Osceola County is named for a Native American resistance leader during the war.
Each county has officers considered "state" officers, which are elected locally, their offices and salaries paid locally, but who can be removed or replaced by the governor, and not locally. These are the Sheriff, State Attorney, Public Defender, Tax Collector, County Clerk, a county Appraiser who established the value of real estate for tax purposes, and county judges.
Each sheriff operates under Florida Statute 30.15.
By State Law there is one school district comprising each of the counties in Florida.
To provide liquidity to the counties when tax bills are not paid, there is a tax lien and tax deed sale process. Once a lien, purchased at auction, has been outstanding for two years (technically, April 1 of the second year following the date when the tax lien was originally offered for sale), the tax lien holder may petition the circuit court (via the county tax collector) to begin the process for the forced sale of the property.
Municipalities in Florida may be called towns, cities, or villages, but there is no legal distinction between the different terms. Municipalities often have police departments, fire departments, and provide essential services such as water, waste collection, etc. In unincorporated areas of a county, the county itself provides these services. Municipalities may also enter agreements with the county to have the county provide certain services. Each county has a sheriff who also tends to have concurrent jurisdiction with municipal police departments.
In some cases, such as Jacksonville, the municipal and county governments have merged into a consolidated government. In Jacksonville, the municipal government has taken over the responsibilities normally given to the county government, Duval County in this case. However, smaller municipal governments can be created inside of a consolidated municipality/county, which happened in Jacksonville.
Local government is not required to pay for health care insurance for government retirees. As of 2010, none do.
In 2011, researchers at Florida State University said that Florida's cities and counties have promised pensions they cannot afford. Pension obligations constituted 8% of total spending by local governments in 2009.
Florida has a Balanced Budget Amendment, requiring the state not to have a budget deficit. The requirement for a balanced budget does not appear as such in the Florida Constitution. Article VII, Section 1(d), Florida Constitution, provides: "Provision shall be made by law for raising sufficient revenue to defray the expenses of the state for each fiscal period." Article III, Section 19(a), Florida Constitution, provides for "Annual Budgeting." These two provisions, when read together, form the basis for the balanced annual budget requirement.
Florida's state budget is funded one-third from General Revenue and two-thirds from hundreds of trust funds. The General Revenue portion of Florida's state budget is funded primarily by sales tax, while local governments also have their own respective budgets funded primarily by property taxes. The annual state budget is constructed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor who administers it. The state budget for 2008-9 was $66 billion.
In 2008, the state was one of four which had fully funded pension systems for government employees, including teachers. There are five classes of state employees for pension investment: Regular and Special Risk Administrative employees accrue retirement benefits at 1.6%-1.68% per year; Senior Management, 2%; Special Risk employees, such as police and firefighters, 3%; and elected officers, including judges and legislative at 3% to 3.3%. The higher rate for the latter is to encourage early retirement. In 2010 there were 304,000 state retirees and 655,000 active employees. The average teacher's retirement check is $1,868 monthly. The average regular class retiree gets $970 per month.
In 2011 to 2012 fiscal year, the state collected over $2.2 billion from the tax on gasoline.
See also 
- Sections 11.40, 11.45, and 11.51, Florida Statutes.
- Section 350.001, Florida Statutes.
- The 1971 proposed rewrite of Article V was approved by the voters in 1972. It established uniform courts throughout Florida, set the jurisdiction of the courts, required that all judges be full time, established the judicial nominating commission, and revised the judicial qualifications commission.
- Reed, Matt (24 May 2009). "Watchdog column:Suit sets limits on liability of country". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. pp. 1B.
- Pan-Am Tobacco v. Department of Corrections, 471 So.2d 4 (Fla. 1984).
- These are the maximum numbers allowed. Article III, Section 16(a), Florida Constitution, provides that the Senate shall be apportioned into not less than 3, nor more than 40 Senate districts, and the House shall be apportioned into not less than 80 nor more than 120 House districts.
- After dicennial apportionment of the Legislature, one-half of the Senators are elected to two-year terms to comply with Article III, Section 15(a), Florida Constitution, which requires staggered terms in the Senate (one-half of the Senators elected every 2 years).
- The concept of "term limit" is commonly misunderstood in Florida. Article VI, Section 4(b), Florida Constitution, prohibits a person from appearing on the ballot for re-election if, by the end of the current term, the person will have served for eight consecutive years. The most obvious exception to the common understanding of "term limit" occurs immediately following dicennial apportionment. Twenty of the forty Senators are elected for initial terms of 2 years. They subsequently may be elected to two additional four-year terms, serving a total of ten years. At the time of the second reelection, a Senator will have served six years and is thus not precluded from serving by the eight-year limitation. Another exception that has been discussed but never tested is that a statewide elected official, after serving eight years, might run as a write-in candidate, thus not having his or her name appear on the ballot. See How to Defy Term Limits, Lakeland Ledger, August 9, 1999. 
- Article III, Section 3, Florida Constitution.
- Section 11.011, Florida Statutes, and Article III, Section 3(c)(2), Florida Constitution.
- Article IV, Section 6, Florida Constitution, limits the number of executive departments to no more than 25. The constitutional limitation specifically excludes departments authorized in the Constitution such as the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Article IV, Section 9), the Department of Veterans Affairs (Article IV, Section 11), and the Department of Elderly Affairs (Article IV, Section 12). Further, the Legislature has housed totally independent agencies under other departments (such as the Agency for Workforce Innovation being housed under the Department of Management Services pursuant to section 20.50, Florida Statutes), which prevents the independent agencies from being counted toward the constitutional limit of 25 departments. See, e.g., Agency for Health Care Administration v. Associated Industries of Florida, 678 So.2d 1239 (Fla. 1996), where the Florida Supreme Court found that the Agency was created as an independent agency within the Department of Professional Regulation and that the Agency did not count toward the "25 department" limit.
- Dye, T.R., Jewett, A. & MacManus, S.A. (2007) Politics in Florida. Tallahassee: John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government.
- Cervenka, Susanne (24 October 2010). "Workers stockpile unused leave time". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. pp. 1A.
- The Conference Report on Senate Bill 2800, the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2011-2012, authorizes 122,235.75 positions (before gubernatorial vetoes). That number includes 4,322.5 positions for judges, justices, and employees of the state court system (judicial branch). It does not include employees of the state university system, the legislative branch (except for 296 positions for the Public Service Commission) or employees of local governments -- counties, municipalities, school districts, Florida colleges, water management districts, etc.
- Article IV, Sections 1(a) and 4, Florida Constitution.
- Article IV, Section 4(b), Florida Constitution.
- MyFloridaLegal.com, accessed May 21, 2008.
- Article IV, Section 4(c), Florida Constitution.
- FLDOACS: Commissioner's Biography
- Judicial Process Unit. Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. 2011.
- "School Nurses". Merritt Island, Florida: Space Coast Medicine and Healthy Living. March/April 2009. pp. 21–33.
- Municipal codes and ordinances
- Edmondson, Raymond (16 February 2011). "Stop the fear mongering". Florida Today (Melbourne, Florida). pp. 9A.
- "Fort Lauderdale: Study finds promised penions too costly". Florida Today (Melbourne, Florida). 11 February 2011. pp. 8B.
- The Conference Report for Senate Bill 2800, the 2011-2012 General Appropriations Act, authorizes the expenditure of $23,182,748,671 from the General Revenue Fund and $46,493,890,488 from Trust Funds (before gubernatorial veotes).
- Governor's Press Office (2008-06-11). "GOVERNOR CRIST SIGNS $66 BILLION BALANCED BUDGET, VETOES $251.1 MILLION".
- Mulvihill, Geoff (16 September 2010). "States cutting benefits to close pension funds gaps". Burlington, Vermont: Burlington Free Press. pp. 1A.
- Flemming, Paul (30 January 2011). "Pension crunch affects courts". Florida Today (Melbourne, Florida). pp. 10B.
- "State pension reform". Florida Today (Melbourne, Florida). 13 February 2011. pp. 22A.
- Gunnerson, Scott (April 21, 2013). "Toll". Florida Today (Melbourne, Florida). pp. 3A.
- Florida Government official website
- Florida at Ballotpedia
- Florida at Judgepedia
- Florida at Sunshine Review