State Government Overview
In this course we will:
Look at how Florida co-exists in a country with 49 other states.
Look at how the people of Florida have come from diverse and rich origins.
Find that Florida is one of the country's largest, most multicultural regions within the 50 states.
Find that Florida operates independently, to large extent, under its own set of rules and guidelines, set forth in the Florida State Constitution.
Compare how Florida's Constitution differs from other states' constitutions.
We will take a look at Florida's relationship with the federal government, which we define as the concept of federalism.
Florida's governance is intricately linked to the powers that it shares with Washington's political institutions.
As Florida's needs and contributions change, so must this relationship with the federal government.
We will also study one of Florida’s greatest distinctions—its People.
Florida is composed of a population that has migrated from not only other parts of the country, but also other parts of the world.
There can be no greater resource than the tapestry that's woven by different cultures and heritages.
We will not only focus on the origins of people who currently live in Florida, but will also look to the future, and who will be its new citizens.
We will note how Florida's very rapid growth, current and anticipated, along with a diverse population has created an extraordinary opportunity to live in a state rich in economic and natural resources.
However, we will find that along with this growth come challenges.
And, we will find that along with Florida’s diversity comes conflict and the possibility that many people may be excluded from benefits that may be both deserved and earned.
- Constitutions explain what benefits and protections citizens get from government, and what rights they must give up to receive those benefits.
- While the United States Constitution has been under constant review and development since our country's inception, amended 27 times in our history, little attention has been given to the other 50 constitutions in the United States.
- Constitutions, be they federal or state, not only provide a framework for government to function, they also provide a contract that obligates citizens and their government.
- As citizens, we operate under two "contracts," our federal constitution and state constitution. State constitutions differ widely. For access to the majority of state constitutions, just right click on “Other State Constitutions" and choose "Open Link in New Window."
- While the U.S. Constitution is not considered a detailed document (8,700 words), many state constitutions are verbose, Georgia's contained over 583,000 words at one time. The level of complexity in state constitutions may lead to confusion for its constituents. Florida's Constitution is over 25,000 words long.
- Many states such as Maine, Nevada, and Kansas have only had one constitution in their history, while other states have had several.
- Louisiana has had 11 constitutions in its history, the most recent taking effect in January 1975.
- Florida has had six Constitutions.
•56 delegates wrote Florida’s first Constitution, during a convention in St. Joseph, FL.
•This 1st Constitution provided for:
1. A bicameral legislature;
2. A one-term governor; and
3. The legislature to select the heads of governmental departments.
•The Confederate Constitution
•Drafters met in Tallahassee to adopt Ordinance of Succession.
•Linked Florida to the Confederate States of America.
•Adopted after the Civil War.
•Annulled succession ordinance.
•Acknowledged abolition of slavery, but restricted jury service and witness testimony to whites only unless victim was black; denied blacks and women the right to vote; and never became law because Florida came under post-Civil War military jurisdiction.
• The Carpetbag Constitution, as it came to be called.
• Centralized power with the governor.
* Local leaders appointed, not elected.
• Required a public schools system, a state prison system, and other institutions.
• Required taxes to be uniform.
• Extended voting and other rights to all males.
• Allocated a seat in the State Senate and House to Seminole Indians.
• Weakened executive authority by:
* Establishing an elected cabinet;
* Election of government officials;
* Reducing elected state officials’ salaries; and
* Limiting the governor to one term.
• Authorized a poll tax (lasted until 1937), that served to deny poor blacks and whites the right to vote.
• Thus far, this was the longest lasting and most amended constitution.
• Florida’s Current Constitution.
• Provides for five ways to propose constitutional amendments:
1. Proposal by state legislature;
2. Proposal by citizen initiative;
3. Proposal by Constitution Revision Commission;
4. Proposal by constitutional convention; and
5. Proposal by the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission.
* Right-click on Florida’s Flag and choose "Open Link in New Window" to go to Florida’s current Constitution.
Federalism is a system of government in which powers are divided and shared between different levels, e.g. national, state and local.
While other countries may embody the majority of their governmental powers in the hands of one central government, we in the United States have chosen to share that power between a central power, i.e. the federal government and 50 different regional groups, the states.
There are advantages to a federalist system:
- Public policy can be both tailored for local needs, as well providing guidance for issues that relate to the country as a whole.
There are disadvantages to a federalist system:
- There can be inequalities between states;
- There can be policy gaps between the federal and state governments.
- There can be endless conflict between the federal and state systems as to who shall dominate a specific area of policy.
In this contract with the Federal Government, states give up specific rights…
Right-click and choose "Open Link in New Window" here---->
However, the Founding Fathers also found it important to guarantee certain rights to the states, exclusive of the Federal government, in Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. Rights that the states are guaranteed . . .Right-click below and choose "Open Link in New Window."
The issue of Federalism is not however, a resolved issue. To this day, we continue to define and redefine the role of the Federal and state governments.
President Clinton issued an executive order in August 1999 attempting to reduce the problem of unfunded mandates. Executive Order 13132 of August 4, 1999Federal Register: August 10, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 153), Presidential Documents, page 43255-43259. To view this Executive Order, right-click on President Clinton’s picture and choose "Open Link in New Window."
Florida and Federalism:
"These are not my figures I'm quoting. They're the figures of someone who knows what they are talking about."Quote from actual Florida House debate, “House Journal.”
Florida is just one of 50 forms of state governments in the United States. As a product of federalism, every state, while still part of the same nation, may emphasize different goals, be comprised of different populations, and thereby, have different problems from one another.
Within the 50 states, Florida ranks 4th highest in population, with more than 18 million people. Only California, Texas and New York have larger populations.
Right-click on the link below and choose "Open Link in New Window"
Florida has more senior citizens (age 65 or older) than any other state.
Right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window."
Florida ranks in the top half (21st) in per capita income.
At the same time, Florida ranks 22nd in percentage of its population below the poverty line.
Comparing Florida to Other States
Florida is one of the few states in the country that has no state income tax and one of the lowest tax rates. Only nine states take in less tax revenue than Florida. Right-click on the map and choose "Open Link in New Window" to check out the “e-Florida” website.
Primary and Secondary Education
Florida has one of lowest percentages of its population in primary and secondary school, 17%. Only Massachusetts has a lower percentage. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, Digest of Educational Statistics, 1996, NCES -96-1333 (1996) .
While Florida's spending on elementary and secondary schools is relatively average, ranking 25th amongst other state (National Education Association, Estimates of School Statistics, 1995-96) Florida graduates fewer high school students than any other state except Louisiana and South Carolina. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, Digest of Educational Statistics, 1996, NCES -96-1333 (1996).
With regard to colleges and universities, Florida college-bound students pay some of the lowest tuition in the country. Dye, pg. 188
Lower tuition costs may impact the state's overall spending to fund higher education in Florida.
Only Missouri and Massachusetts spend less per capita for higher education. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Government Finances, 1992-1993 (1996)
For more recent educational statistics, right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window" to go to the US Department of Education website: http://www.ed.gov/, or
Right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window" to go to the National Education Association website: http://www.nea.org/index.html
Issues for Florida Today
The United States Senate has two senators from each State. Right-click on the US Capitol Dome and choose "Open Link in New Window" to view the list of US Senators in state order…
The United States House of Representatives is made up of a variable number of representatives from each state proportional to the population of the individual state. Florida currently has 25 members in the U.S. House, but as a result of the 2010 Census Florida will gain two members during the 2012 elections, bringing the total number to 27. Right-click here U.S. House of Representatives and choose "Open Link in New Window" to view the list of Florida’s current US Representatives. (Choose to view list by state.) Reapportionment
The total membership number for the U.S. House of Representatives remains constant at 435.
As Florida continues to grow as a state, our delegation in the U.S. House of Representative continues to increase as determined by the centennial census count.
The responsibility of redrawing district lines falls to the Florida Legislature. Changes affect both federal and state levels, the US House of Representatives and the Florida Legislature. Drawing the district lines to under-represent a particular race or economic group constitutes gerrymandering, and has been a prevalent issue for Florida as well as many other states. Redistricting rules are determined by the 1962 case of Baker v. Carr. Right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window" to read about this case: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=369&invol=186
2012 Florida Supreme Court Case Senate Joint Resolution of Legislative Apportionment 2-B.
Welcome to Florida, where everyone is from somewhere else!
- The people of Florida are, and are becoming, more diverse than ever before.
- With regard to diversity, Florida has a higher percentage of minority populations than the national average.
- While the state's Asian population is a bit lower than the rest of the country, Florida has a much higher black and Hispanic population than other states.
- To see more of Florida's diverse population right-click and choose "Open Link in New Window": http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/12000.html
The People of Florida
American Indian, Eskimo or Aleut
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
Hispanic or Latino Origin
Florida’s Diverse Origins
Railroads in Florida
- In 1834, the first railroad in Florida was built from Tallahassee to St. Marks. Pulled by mules, the rickety cars transported 50,000 bales of cotton a year to waiting ships bound for northern and European ports.
- Until the outbreak of the Civil War, short lines would be the only railroads found north of Gainesville.
- In 1861, the Florida Railroad was completed from Fernandina Beach to Cedar Key only to be destroyed by invading Union troops.
- As in other southern states after the Civil War, the construction of railroads in Florida was hampered by a lack of capital investors and corruption of those who did invest.
- The purchase of over 4,000,000 acres from disgruntled land speculators, railroad bondholders and the State of Florida would open the interior of Florida from Pensacola to South Florida to future investors.
- During the 1880s and ‘90s, Henry Plant and Henry Flagler, would proceed to construct lines along Florida’s west and east coasts, respectively. Flagler would eventually extend his line to Key West with the Overseas Railroad, an unparalleled engineering feat.
- Construction of railroads down the center of the state contributed to the 1920s Land Boom and established Florida as a destination for tourists, commercial agriculture and other industries such as phosphate and truck farming.
Right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window" to view the Flagler Museum website, webpage on Florida East Coast Railway history.
Slave Trade in Florida
- The slave trade began in Florida with the establishment of St. Augustine by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565. As that new military fortification was extremely isolated, these enslaved Africans usually escaped into the interior to establish their own communities or to align with the native tribes.
- The continued loss of slaves almost certainly contributed to the implementation of a more benign form of Spanish slavery.
- While the Spanish did import Africans as slaves, they often worked at a less demanding task system than did their northern brethren. Many purchased or were given their freedom as reward for acts of bravery or superior work. In addition, the Spanish encouraged slaves to the north to escape to Florida where they could be granted freedom. These new residents would later prove excellent soldiers.
- Over the next 250 years, Spanish Florida would become a haven for runaway slaves from British colonies and American States, a factor that played significantly in the acquisition of Florida from Spain in 1821. As an American territory and state, Florida would implement the American system of slavery that was in place through the Civil War.
- From 1821 through 1861, slaves would far outnumber white settlers in "Middle Florida" where cotton farms and plantations continued to prosper on the backs of slave labor.
View the website “History of Slavery” by right-clicking on the picture of the slave ship and choosing "Open Link in New Window." In addition see the following link specific to Slavery in Florida.
Citrus and Sugar Migrant Workers
- Following the Civil War, thousands of new settlers, both black and white, relocated to Florida in search of options other than "behind the plow." Over the next 30 years, the citrus, phosphate and agricultural markets would explode.
- As the population moved into the interior and further south, thousands of acres were planted in citrus and vegetables. Here seasonal harvesting formed the nucleus of a migratory work force.
- In late winter and early spring, sharecroppers from North Florida would migrate to the citrus groves to harvest the new fruit. Over time, many sharecroppers abandoned their farms and began to follow the crops exclusively.
- In the early 1900s, the draining of the Everglades opened still more land to agriculture. In the subtropical climate, sugar cane could grow in areas previously underwater. This new crop required a new type of worker, one experienced in the planting, cultivating and harvesting of sugar cane.
- New immigrants from Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti relocated to south Florida. These workers were similar to the migrant citrus worker of north and central Florida in that they were semi-nomadic as the seasonal demand for labor waxed and waned.
- Over time, Mexican farm workers would also relocate to Florida's more stable agricultural economy.
- While the railroads and boom times of the 1920s would provide the workers with plenty of work, the Great Depression of the 1930s severely limited their opportunities.
- By the 1960s, migrant workers had begun to follow national markets, returning to Florida for the citrus or vegetable season, moving on average four times a year.
- To read more about Florida's Migrant Workers click on the following link. On that site you will find links to other helpful sites about the migrant workers and their conditions. http://www.myfloridaeh.com/community/migrant-labor/index.html
Greek Sponge Divers
- Sponging in Florida originated in the Florida Keys, particularly Key West, in 1849. For the next 50 years, spongers used long poles to "hook" the sponges off the shallow ocean floor.
- In 1905, Greek immigrant John Cocoris realized that the use of the Greek method of deep-water sponging could be used off the coast of Tarpon Springs. He and other Greek businessmen transformed a small town into a world-renowned center for the sponge industry.
- Today, the City of Tarpon Springs embraces the Greek heritage that has made their community famous. Tarpon Springs is known as "the sponge capital of the world."
- In the 1930s, the sponge industry of Tarpon Springs was very prosperous, bringing in millions of dollars of sponges yearly. But in the 1940s, the sponge beds were contaminated and destroyed by bacteria, which led to a decline in the sponge industry. The industry was revived in the 1980s when healthy sponge beds were found.
- Now Tarpon Springs is back to being a leader in the world's natural sponge market. All aspects of the sponge industry take place in Tarpon Springs, from the harvesting of the sponge, all the way to the auctions that are held weekly at the Sponge Docks for wholesalers.
To view a website on the history of Tarpon Springs’ Sponge Industry, right-click on the picture of sponges and boats and choose "Open Link in New Window."Florida Crackers
- The "Crackers" came to Florida from other southern states, most often Georgia and Alabama, and were usually of Scotch-Irish descent. They came in search of opportunity and freedom, and succeeded in creating a culture unique to Florida.
- These hardy people settled in the most isolated areas of the state and eked out an existence. They farmed small farms planted in corn and herded wild hogs and bush cattle.
- In fact, the term "Cracker" came from the sound made by the whips of the cowboys on cattle drives.
- In parts of the state, native Floridians embrace the name as a tribute to the rugged, self-sufficient pioneers that braved the wilderness of Florida.
- Through the efforts of folklorists, anthropologists and historians, the culture, traditions and contributions of these intrepid settlers has continued to be explored and documented.
For More Florida History Resources, right click on the following and choose "Open Link in New Window": http://dhr.dos.state.fl.us/facts/
Cuban Cigar Workers
- In Florida, Cuban trade in cigars flourished during the two centuries of Spanish rule.
Shops of Cuban cigar makers lined the streets of St. Augustine, and to a lesser extent, Pensacola. When Florida became an American territory in 1821, many Cubans stayed and the industry continued to grow.
- As the cigar industry increased in importance, several prominent cigar merchants relocated their cigar-making shops to Key West and, later, to Tampa.
Here the workers joined social, fraternal and cultural clubs that provided medical and retirement benefits to its members.
- At work, lectors read from books and periodicals as the workers rolled cigars by the thousands.
- By the 1890s, the small Cuban community of Ybor City in Tampa had surpassed Key West as the center of the cigar industry.
- It had become an enclave for revolutionary Cubans fighting for independence from Spain.
- One of those revolutionaries, José Martí made fiery speeches calling for an independent Cuba. His rhetoric, picked up in the national newspapers of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer fanned the flame of national discontent until the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine sparked the onset of the Spanish-American War and put Tampa "on the map."
Right-click on the picture of the ship and choose "Open Link in New Window" to read more on the history of the U.S.S. Maine.
Jewish and Northern Influences
The first northern tourists to visit Florida arrived by steamboat and steamship in the 1880s lured by the warm winter weather. By the turn of the 20th century, Florida resort owners were actively marketing to northern residents.
One area particularly targeted was New York. Here, Jewish motel owners in Florida advertised to northern Jews. Upon visiting, many stayed and relocated other family members.
In Miami Beach and other cities, Jews were able to establish hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Even though they were segregated from the Gentile population, this in fact made for stronger Jewish communities that continued to grow and thrive.
Other New Yorkers, both Catholic and Protestant also relocated to the Sunshine State during the 1920s through the 1960s.
By the 1970s, south Florida, and particularly Miami Beach, had a distinctive northern flavor.
- Older immigrants who come to warm sunny Florida to visit in the winter months are referred to as "Snowbirds." These snowbirds normally originate in northern states, and Canada.
- Many snowbirds decide to stay. Factors other than the weather may play a significant role in turning the "snowbird" immigrants into permanent residents.
- Florida's lack of a state income tax, as well as many restricted communities which allow only retired persons, may play a large role in why Florida's largest immigrant group can be distinguished by their age, rather than their cultural origin. Source: US Census Bureau
The people of Florida look a bit older than other states...
Percentage of the Population under 18
Percentage of the Population 65 and older
- In the last thirty years, Miami's demographic balance has shifted radically due to an unprecedented influx of immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America.
- Between 1959 and 1980, over 625,000 Cubans fled into exile. In the eighties, hundreds of thousands of Haitians, Nicaraguans, and others from Caribbean and Latin American nations streamed into the area.
- By the end of the decade, additional thousands from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa quietly settled in Miami. Today Miamians are 21 percent black, 30 percent non-Hispanic white, and 49 percent Hispanic. (Page 101, Tina Bucuvalas, South Florida Folklife, Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1994.)
Mariel Boat Lift
- During 1980, from early April until late September, close to 125,000 Cuban migrants came to Florida as part of what was called the Mariel Boat Lift. Many of the boats were not seaworthy, were heavily overloaded, and were easily capsized. As a result, a number of would-be immigrants drowned, including 14 on one overloaded boat in May that year.
- As many as 1,387 boats required assistance from the United States Coast Guard.
- Short-term costs to the Coast Guard alone to maintain the operation were over $650,000 per week.
- Over 60% of the migrants were adult males, who, it was feared, were being released from Cuban prisons. While these reports were not confirmed, the rumors did create strong resentment toward the recent Cuban immigrants, particularly in South Florida, and heightened concern with regard to increases in crime.
Right-click the photograph and choose "Open Link in New Window" to view the US Coast Guard webpage on the Mariel Boat Lift. Right-click on the link below and choose "Open Link in New Window" to view an article by David Card “The Impact of the Mariel Boat Lift on the Miami Labor Market.” http://emlab.berkeley.edu/~card/papers/mariel-impact.pdf
- Florida's diversity is becoming even greater today. According the U.S. Census Bureau, since 2000, Florida’s population has increased by more than 14%.
Compare this to other states (right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window": http://www.fairus.org/facts
- Only a small percentage of Florida's population growth has come from its domestic population.
- The majority of Florida's growth is attributed to people moving to Florida from other states, followed closely by people moving from other countries.
- The percentage of Floridians born in other countries is increasing a rapid rate.
- The vast majority of Florida's foreign-born population comes from the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America. Recent history has shown Cuba as having been the greatest contributor to Florida's population.
- The future of the state, while still indicating a high level of immigration from Cuba, indicates that Florida's immigration may no longer be heavily concentrated in the Caribbean.
- Florida is currently the 4th most populous state in the country.
- Projections show Florida will increase to the 3rd most populous state by 2011, edging past New York.
- Education, crime, and social welfare issues are sure to become crucial in the growth and development of the state.
- Issues such as these have Floridians very concerned about growth. It is ironic that in a state where almost 20% of the population was foreign-born, March 2009 Zogby Polling results of registered Florida voters found that an overwhelming majority believe that illegal immigration is harming the state.
- The majority of respondents stated that they would support a candidate who in turn supported immigration reduction.
- While a diverse population brings with it a rich resource of culture, it also brings new challenges to a rapidly growing state.
Civil Rights: Introduction
Civil Rights are defined as the rights citizens are entitled to from their government. Citizens are guaranteed equal protection to all laws, regardless of race, and regardless of state laws, under the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. All citizens are guaranteed the freedom from discrimination, the use of any unreasonable and unjust criterion of exclusion.
Civil Rights: The Case of Florida
Following the defeat of the Confederacy, Florida was left with no viable legal or political system in place. Appointed to create a new state Constitution and government, the Florida General Assembly was deeply concerned with the regulation of former slaves. Newly freed blacks could no longer be controlled or punished by an owner, so new laws and regulations were put into effect.
The new laws made loitering, vagrancy and other trivial transgressions an offense punishable by up to one year at hard labor.
They provided no means of funding either for the creation of, or support for, schools for black children. The laws disenfranchised black men from voting.
Lastly, other laws made it illegal for blacks to serve on juries or to sue whites.
In all, they managed to subjugate the black population and effectively return Florida to its pre-war roles of servant and master.
By 1884, the Bourbon Democrats had begun to seize control of the political reins in Florida. The Constitution of 1885 would make it possible to begin the legal disenfranchisement of blacks.
In 1889, the Florida legislature complied and passed the poll tax laws.
These laws put in place a tax on any black man voting, a tax to "pay for education." They also allowed for multiple ballots in multiple locations, making the voting for all or any of the Republican candidates next to impossible.
While the multiple ballots would be replaced in 1893, the poll tax would remain in effect until 1937.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identified 217 "Patriot" groups that were active in 1999. Of these groups, 68 were militias, four were "common-law courts" and the remainder fit into a variety of categories such as publishers, ministries, citizens’ groups and others.
Generally, Patriot groups define themselves as opposed to the "New World Order" or advocate or adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines.
The listing here does not imply that the groups themselves advocate or engage in violence or other criminal activities or are racist.
The list was compiled from field reports, Patriot publications, the Internet, law enforcement sources and news reports.
Militia or Patriot Groups as Reported by the Florida Poverty Law Center Constitutional
Guardians of America, Boca Raton
Constitution Party, Brevard County
Citizens for Better Government, Gainesville
Constitution Party, Pinellas County
People for Sovereignty and Restoration, Pompano Bch.
Southeastern States Alliance, St. Petersburg
Confederate States of America/Omega Group One, Tallahassee
Greater Ministries International, Tampa
Militia of Florida, West Palm Beach
Right-click HERE and choose "Open Link in New Window" to go to the Southern Poverty Law Center website.
The Klu Klux Klan
During Reconstruction, many white Floridians resented the military presence in Florida.
They blamed the blacks and deeply resented their newly protected privileges. Unable to find legal recourse, some whites banded together in vigilante groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
Often overlooked in Florida, the Klan harassed and intimidated black men and women throughout the state, particularly in the northern regions.
Lynching, cross burnings, raids and armed assaults during election days served to effectively deter many blacks from voting.
Following the passage of the new State Constitution and poll tax laws in the 1880s and '90s, often referred to as the “Jim Crow Laws” the activities of the Klan subsided.
However, World War I would bring to the forefront civil rights and voting issues.
When women won the right to vote in 1920, many black women and men would once again attempt to exercise their rights.
By the early 1920s, the Klan was once more a serious threat to blacks.
By the early 1950s, lynching, murders, assaults and vandalism against innocent blacks were again marring race relations in Florida.
Today, racist beliefs are channeled through groups who may participate in the advancement of hate crimes.
- Until January 1923, Rosewood, a small town near Cedar Key in western Levy County, was home to about 350 African-American Floridians.
- That month, this small town became what the late Governor Chiles described as "a shadow of shame which fell across the state of Florida."
Right-click on the picture and choose "Open Link in New Window" to read about the Rosewood incident.
Civil Rights activity in Florida rose in the 1960s, as did the black voting percentage, thanks in part to civil rights activists such as Harry T. Moore and C.K. Steele.
To read more about these men, right-click on their names and choose "Open Link in New Window."
Civil Rights: Education
Two Supreme Court cases have dominated the concepts of segregation and integration in not only Florida's educational system, but across the nation.
- 1896: Plessy v.Ferguson: Created the doctrine of "Separate but equal," that public accommodations could be segregated by race and still be equal.
- 1954: Brown v. Board of Education: Struck down the "separate but equal” doctrine as fundamentally unequal. This case eliminated state power to use race as a criterion of discrimination in law and provided the national government with the power to intervene by exercising strict regulatory policies against discriminatory actions." (Ginsburg, Lowi, & Weir; 2001, p. 201.)
Florida responded by several means: One odd example of Florida's response to the 1954 Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education was to create a separate system of higher education for black Floridians. In 1955, the Florida Community College Council established a separate system of two-year colleges. Twelve community colleges were created soley for African-American students. These colleges (see following list) continued in existence until the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawed segregation in public education.
(For more information, consult The Magnificent Twelve: Florida's Black Junior Colleges, Walter L. Smith, 1994.)
One Florida Initiative
- In November of 1999, Governor Jeb Bush announced "One Florida" a controversial plan to change how Florida contends with affirmative action.
- The photo to the right, taken by the Tallahassee Democrat in March 2000, depicts the 25,000 to 80,000 participants who marched to the Capitol in Tallahassee in protest to the One Florida Initiative.
- There was much dissent and protest in response to the plan, and a number of articles as well as websites were developed opposing the plan. Here are just two of them (right-click on each and choose "Open Link in New Window":
In the ten years since Governor Bush's Plan was implemented, there has been much dialogue on this issue as well as many changes for the better. What began as the "One Florida" Initiative now falls under the Department of Management Services and is now know as the "Office of Supplier Diversity" or OSD. Right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window" to visit the website.
In this section, we will focus primarily on the political institution within the State of Florida.
Comprised of the House of Representatives and the Senate, Florida’s Legislature writes the majority of the laws under which the citizens of Florida live.
Those laws are interpreted by the Judicial branch; and
Enforced by the Executive branch.
Florida has law enforcement officials at all levels of local and state government to contend with those who do not abide by the law. We will devote attention to some of those levels and how they work together.
We will also take a look at political parties and interest groups, and see how they play a significant role in Florida's political institutions.
The Structure of the Legislature
Right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window" to see information on Florida's 67 counties:
- Florida and the other 49 states are structured to mirror the Federal Government.
- Florida’s legislative branch of government writes the laws;
- Florida’s judicial branch of government interprets the laws; and
- Florida’s executive branch of government carries out the laws.
- Florida is also comprised of 67 counties and 411 cities (as of 12/31/2008), each within its own system of governance.
Click on this link to see information on Florida's 411 cities: http://www.flcities.com/membership/my_city_facts.asp
Right-click on the picture below and choose "Open Link in New Window" to take a tour of Florida's Capitol Complex
The Role of the Legislative Branch
- Florida, as many other states, has a bicameral legislature.
- Bicameral means that the legislature has two parts:
1. The House of Representatives; and
2. The Senate.
- Some states such as Nebraska have a unicameral, or single house legislature—Nebraska established its unicameral legislature in 1934.
- The role of the legislature is to enact laws.
- The Florida legislature proposes approximately 500 bills per session.
- Legislators meet for two months in Tallahassee, from the beginning of March until the end of April, limited by the Florida Constitution to 60 days.
- Legislative salaries range from nothing (New Mexico) to $79,650 (Michigan) per year.
- In states where there is no official salary, legislators are often paid on a per diem basis (i.e. Alabama Legislators earn $10 per day).
- Florida Legislators earn $31,932 as of March 2008.
The Florida House of Representatives
"Mr. Speaker, what bill did we just pass?"
(Actual quote from Florida House debate, taken from the House Journal)
- The Florida House of Representatives has 120 members who serve two-year terms of office. As a result of a statewide referendum in 1992, all house members are limited to four, two-year terms of office. This limitation is commonly referred to as a “term limit.”
- The leader of the House of Representatives is called the Speaker of the House. The current House Speaker is Rep. Dean Cannon.
- Right-click on the picture of the Florida House of Represenatives seal above and choose "Open Link in New Window" to view a list of current Florida House members.
- There is more detailed district information available on each member of the Florida House. To see information on a particular House member's district, on the member’s page click on any of the links below the member’s picture to view district maps or statistical information.
The Florida Senate
- The Florida Senate has 40 members who serve four-year terms of office.
- As a result of a statewide referendum in 1992, all house members are limited to two, four-year terms of office. This limitation is commonly referred to as a “term limit.”
- The leader of the Senate is called the President of the Senate. The current Senate President is Senator Mike Haridopolos.
- To view a list of current Florida Senators, right-click on the picture of the Senate Chambers and choose "Open Link in New Window."
- To view the information on the Senate districts, right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window": http://www.flsenate.gov/Legislators/index.cfm?Mode=District%20Information&Submenu=2&Tab=legislators&CFID=145158751&CFTOKEN=54560340. Then choose a number from the list (district), and from this page you will see a picture of the Senator from that district, and a link to the demographic description of that district.
- The committee is the heart of the legislative process. The committee does what the Senate and the House of Representatives could not do as well by functioning as a whole.
- The committee can and should do the fact-finding groundwork.
- The formation of committees breaks down the membership into numerous small groups. Opportunity is thus afforded the Senate and the House for closer study of a bill than would be possible in debate on the floor.
- In this preliminary screening, the committee will hear from the legislator who introduced the bill. It will hear, too, from other legislators who either favor or oppose the bill.
- The committee may go outside the Legislature to learn the opinion of interested persons who may be well informed on the subject of the bill.
- The committee can subpoena for witnesses and for records. It can also use the research facilities of the Legislature to analyze the situation here and in other states.
- Citizens who wish to be heard are also allowed to speak at committee meetings. Technically, both the Senate and the House, sitting as a committee, could do all these things. But committees can and do perform the work more efficiently and thoroughly.
- The volume of business in today's Florida Legislature is considerable. It would be difficult to complete if the entire body attempted to study every bill upon its introduction.
(Source: Florida Online Sunshine)
Committees may vote to take the following actions on a bill:
- Favorable with amendments;
- Favorable with committee substitute;
- Unanimously favorable; or
- If amendments are adopted, they still must be heard and adopted by the full legislative body.
There are basically three types of committees:
- Select; and
1. Standing Committees and Councils:
- The Senate and the House of Representatives establish standing committees for the management of their business.
- Authority of rules separately adopted by the Senate and by the House establishes them.
- The appointments of committee members, and the designation of the committee chairs and vice-chairs, are made in the Senate by its President and in the House by its Speaker.
- Proposed legislation is referred to a standing committee.
- The committee then has the responsibility of passing judgment on that legislation.
- Each committee may originate legislation within its field of expertise.
- The presiding officer refers bills to one or more committees for review.
2. Select Committees
3. Conference Committees:
- Select committees are those that have been appointed, or selected, to perform a specific task.
- The life of a select committee may last for a few minutes—for example, the time required for one house to notify another of its readiness to transact business on the opening day of the legislative session—or a select committee might last for years.
- The powers of each select committee are set forth in the action creating it. Some are given the authority to subpoena witnesses and open records. Some are empowered to employ counsel and clerical assistance. (Source: Florida Online Sunshine)
Joint Committees (can be standing, select or conference type):
- For a bill to become an act, both houses must pass it in precisely the same words and figures. The second house frequently amends and returns the bill to the house of origin.
- In the case of significant bills, with substantial differences, the shortcut of a Conference Committee likely will be taken almost immediately. Conference committees are among the oldest of lawmaking procedures, dating back to early days of the British Parliament. In America, colonial legislatures used conference committees.
- In Congress, a conference committee was appointed on its second day, in 1789.
- A conference committee in reality is composed of separate committees from the Senate and the House of Representatives.
- As separate committees, they vote separately, not only on the final product, but also on any subsidiary questions put to a vote. A majority of each committee prevails.
- Conference committees are intended to reconcile differences. This suggests a give-and-take process because if a majority of the conferees from either house refuses to budge, the conference would be stalemated, and the bill could fail. However, this rarely happens.
- The Senate and House have the conference committee report presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. No amendments can be offered. Occasionally, a report will be rejected and the bill sent back to conference. Usually, however, conference reports are submitted in the waning hours of a session when the shortness of time might mean the bill would be lost or the Legislature called into an extended or special session. Thus, the committee has the pressure of time on its side.
- The Senate President and House Speaker agree upon the number of conferees. The General Appropriations Bill, by its magnitude, requires a larger conference committee. The conferees are known as managers. They generally are appointed from the committee that handled the bill but sometimes the President or Speaker will go outside the committee to select one or more conferees. Usually this occurs when the House/Senate has so amended the bill during floor consideration that the bill may no longer resemble the bill reported from the committee. Then, those who shaped the bill during floor consideration may more easily speak for the House/Senate in the conference committee. (Source: Florida Online Sunshine)
How a Bill Becomes Law
"Anyone can get a good bill passed. It takes real skill to get a bad one through."
(Actual quote from Florida House debate, taken from the House Journal as cited in Dye: Politics in Florida)
Either house may originate any type of legislation, however the processes differ slightly between houses. A legislator sponsors a bill, which is referred to one or more committees related to the bill's subject.
The committee studies the bill and decides if it should pass, fail, or be amended.
If passed, the bill moves to other committees of reference or to the full house.
The full house then votes on the bill. If it passes in one house, it is sent to the other house for review. A bill goes through the same process in the second house as it did in the first.
A bill can go back and forth between houses until a consensus is reached. Of course, the measure could fail at any point in the process. (Source: Florida Online Sunshine—see how an idea becomes a law)
Steps from Start to Finish on How a Bill Becomes Law
This is an example of a Bill that starts in the House of Representatives.
- Legislation suggested by concerned citizen, group or legislator.
- Bill Introduced by Representative and referred to Bill Drafting Services.
- Bill Drafting Service either writes bill or reviews for style and files with Clerk.
- Bill Filed with Clerk, it is numbered, printed and goes to first "reading."
- First Reading is by publication in journal and the House Speaker assigns to committee.
- Committee Hearings begin and the Bill is reported with the following finding and goes to calendar: favorably; favorably with amendment, favorably with committee substitute. A Bill reported unfavorably is killed.
- The Bill goes on the Calendar--Rules Committee selects bills for Chamber consideration
- Chamber Second Reading--Bill read for amendment.
- Chamber Third Reading--Bill debated--Roll call vote on passage. If it is passed the bill is delivered to the Senate Secretary.
- In the Senate the Bill is read for first time and the Senate President assigns it to a committee.
- Committee Hearings--Bill Reported with the following finding goes to second reading– favorably, favorably with amendment, favorably with committee substitute--Bill reported unfavorably is killed.
- Second Reading--Bill read for amendment.
- Third Reading--Bill debated--Roll call vote on passage. If it is passed the bill is returned to the House.
- Returned to the House--without amendment the bill goes to Enrollment. With amendments the House votes on the bill with the amendments– if the House concurs the Bill goes to Enrollment. If the House refuses to concur the bill goes to Conference Committee.
Right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window" to see a diagram of this process: http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/FileStores/Web/HouseContent/Approved/Public%20Guide/Uploads/Documents/How%20an%20Idea%20Becomes%20a%20Law%202008-2010.pdf
Governor and Lt. Governor
Florida’s executive branch of government consists of the governor and lieutenant governor.
Currently, Florida’s Governor is Rick Scott
. Right-click on Governor Scott's Name and choose "Open Link in New Window" to view his webpage.
Currently, Florida’s Lt. Governor is Jennifer Carroll
Right-click on Lt. Governor Carroll's name and choose "Open Link in New Window"to view her webpage.
Florida’s executive branch of government is unusual in the context of the other states.
Florida’s governor must share responsibility and power with the executive cabinet.
The governor and lieutenant governor, as well as the cabinet members, serve four-year terms of office.
The executive branch of government is limited to two, four-year terms under the 1968 Florida Constitution.
Florida is unique among the 50 states in America.
It is the only state that has a Governor plus a Cabinet consisting of three independently and constitutionally elected state executives.
The Governor is the popularly elected "chief executive" of Florida, but the three members of the Cabinet are also elected by the people and serve as a collective decision and rule-making body for the state.
Each Cabinet member serves a four-year term (with a two-term limit) and is wholly responsible for the administration of at least one state department.
The Governor is responsible for the administration of 17 other state departments. To find these agencies, right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window"then select an agency: http://www.myflorida.com/directory/
If the information on a particular agency or department says that the "Governor and Cabinet" are the head of the agency, then the secretary of that agency or department is appointed by the Governor and Cabinet. If the information about the agency says that the governor appoints the secretary with Senate confirmation, then the Governor alone is responsible for the administration of that agency or department.
Right-click on the picture of the Governor’s Mansion to see dates and times the mansion is available to tour.
The Governor and Cabinet
- Reflecting the concern that a single person (the Governor) might exercise too much power, Floridians ratified the Florida Constitution of 1968, affirming the independence of Cabinet members by deleting the phrase, "the Governor shall be assisted by" the Cabinet. This gave each member equal footing with the Governor on matters that come before the Governor and Cabinet so that Cabinet members are no longer expected, constitutionally, to capitulate to the Governor's wishes.
- Right-click on The Florida Cabinet and choose "Open Link in New Window" to visit the Florida Cabinet homepage. From this page you can view information about the Florida Cabinet, and listen to a live meeting.
- The governors of the state have complained about the arrangement of the Cabinet, since they have been put in the position of negotiating and bargaining with fellow state executives for cooperation in policy-making and policy-management decisions.
- The members may or may not wish to comply, and they all have their own independent constituencies and power bases and have a good deal of latitude in terms of how they wish to deal with the Governor.
- The Governor cannot intervene directly in major departments headed by Cabinet members, neither can the chief executive have a direct impact on other executive boards and commissions of which he is not a member.
- Though he is "first among equals," on matters of broad policy he must "clear" them with other members. Yet, the Cabinet does not always oppose the Governor. On matters of little concern, indifference or where there is little controversy, other members will not block him.
- How the Governor treats his Cabinet colleagues appears to be a key determinant of his success with them. When approached appropriately, the Cabinet can actually help the Governor secure his political and policy objectives.
- No one dominates the Cabinet, but governors have wide latitude to determine what their Cabinet role will be and how they play it.
- Each Cabinet member has staff members assigned to Cabinet duties.
- These highly trusted aides are crucial for conducting Cabinet business since they weigh public opinion, communicate members' preferences with one another, engage in investigating and researching issues, inform one another of agenda items and priorities, and so forth.
- By the time the Cabinet meets, the aides have thoroughly briefed their principals on the issues. Cabinet Aides' meetings occur on Wednesdays prior to Cabinet meetings so that proponents and opponents of issues will have a public forum in which to express their concerns.
(Reprinted from MyFlorida.com. Most of the following information was taken from The Florida Handbook, by Allen Morris, and The Florida Policy Management System: Growth and Reform in America's Fourth Largest State, edited by Richard Chackerian, Askew School of Public Administration and Policy, Florida State University.)
Changes: In 1998, the electorate of Florida voted to reorganize the Florida Cabinet. Some of the officers are elected, some appointed, and some were eliminated.
Currently, the Florida Cabinet Consists of the Following Boards, Commissions and Departments:
- State Board of Executive Clemency
- Agency for Enterprise Information Technology
- State Board of Administration
- Division of Bond Finance
- Department of Veterans' Affairs
- Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
- Department of Law Enforcement
- Department of Revenue
- Administration Commission
- Florida Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission
- Electrical Power Plant and Transmission Line Siting Board
- The Board of Trustees Internal Improvement Trust Fund
- Financial Services Commission
Right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window" to go to the Florida Cabinet's webpage on the Cabinet process. There is also information on the Cabinet's history, structure and meeting times: http://www.myflorida.com/myflorida/cabinet/cabprocess.html
While the Commissioner of Education was at one time a member of the Florida Cabinet, the Commissioner, under the changes in 1998 is now appointed by the Governor. (Right-click on any of the links below and choose "Open Link in New Window" to see the information.)
Under the Revised Florida Cabinet the following are Cabinet Elected Officers (right-click on any of their names and choose "Open Link in New Window" to view their websites:
For a complete list of Florida Government Agencies right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window":
Florida Court System
Overview: Florida has four levels of courts (right-click on any of the links below and choose "Open Link in New Window" to view the information):
Right-click on the following link and choose "Open Link in New Window" to go to the Florida Courts website: http://www.flcourts.org/
Florida Supreme Court
The highest Court in Florida is the Supreme Court, which is composed of seven Justices.
At least five Justices must participate in every case, and at least four must agree for a decision to be reached.
Currently the Florida Supreme Court consists of the following justices, who are also pictured at the beginning of this section:
Right-click on any of the names above and choose "Open Link in New Window" to read a biography on the Justice.
The Court's official headquarters is the Supreme Court Building in Tallahassee.
Right-click on the picture of the Florida Supreme Court Building and choose "Open Link in New Window" to view the Florida Supreme Court website.
To be eligible for the office of Justice, a person must be a qualified elector who resides in Florida and must have been admitted to the practice of law in Florida for the preceding ten years.
For most of Florida's history, all judges were chosen by direct election of the people. The only exception was when a vacancy occurred on a court between elections. In that case, the Governor appointed a replacement to serve until the next election was held. This election of judges led to many problems. Judges had to raise campaign money, which often was donated by the same attorneys who practiced before the Court. By the mid-1970s, the problem became even more serious after several Florida judges were charged with violations of ethics.
In 1971, Governor Reubin Askew took the first step toward reforming the system. That year he instituted a system called "merit selection." Under this system, the Governor referred a Court vacancy to an impartial panel, which suggested names of possible appointees. The Governor then selected a name from the list. In 1974, Justice Ben F. Overton became the first Supreme Court Justice chosen by this method.
Leaders knew, however, that a more complete change still was needed, because judges still faced periodic elections after appointment. The effort to do this was spearheaded by Governor Reubin Askew, Chief Justice Overton, and State Rep. Sandy D'Alemberte (former President of Florida State University), among others. As a result, Florida voters amended the Constitution in 1976, to create a "merit retention" system for Florida's appellate judges. This system was meant to eliminate the many problems caused by judges running for office in an election.
When there is a vacancy on the Court today, this system means that the Governor chooses the next Justice from a list of three qualified persons recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission. When Justices' terms expire, their names will appear on the general election ballot for a merit retention vote, if they wish to remain in office. Under this system, the voters have eliminated contested elections in which appellate justices and judges campaign against other candidates.
Instead, the question on the ballot is: "Shall Justice _____ be retained in office?" If a majority of the votes cast are not in favor of retaining the incumbent Justice, the Governor appoints another person to fill the vacancy. This person is chosen from a list of individuals whose applications have been reviewed and who have been found qualified by the Judicial Nominating Commission.
The Chief Justice
By a majority vote of the justices, one of the justices is elected to serve as Chief Justice, an office that is rotated every two years. The Chief Justice presides at all proceedings of the Court. If the Chief Justice is absent from Court, the most senior Justice present becomes acting Chief Justice. By longstanding tradition, the most senior Justice who has not yet served as Chief Justice is elected to the top post in every even-numbered year.
As chief administrative officer of the entire State judicial system, the Chief Justice assigns justices and judges to duty in courts that require temporary assistance, including retired justices and judges who consent and are approved by the Court to serve.
The Chief Justice supervises the compilation and presentation of the judicial budget to the Legislature. Among other constitutional duties, the Chief Justice presides or designates another Justice to preside over impeachment proceedings in the Senate. The Chief Justice is assisted in the performance of administrative tasks by (right-click on either of the key positions below and choose "Open Link in New Window" to view information on that position):
The Chief Justice is also frequently called upon to swear in State officers. By longstanding custom, the Chief Justice swears in each newly elected Governor. From around 1905, to 1937, a single Bible was used to swear in all Governors. That Bible is now on display in the glass case in the Supreme Court Library.
Additionally, the bulk of trial court decisions that are appealed are never heard by the Supreme Court. Rather, they are reviewed by three-judge panels of the district courts of appeal.
Florida did not have district courts of appeal until they were first approved in 1957. Until that time, all appeals were heard solely by the Supreme Court. However, as Florida grew rapidly in the 20th Century the Supreme Court's docket had become badly congested. Justice Elwyn Thomas with help from other members of the Court perceived the problem and successfully lobbied for the creation of the district-court system.
The Constitution now provides that the Legislature shall divide the State into appellate court districts and that there shall be a district court of appeal (DCA) serving each district. There are five such districts that are headquartered in Tallahassee, Lakeland, Miami, West Palm Beach, and Daytona Beach.
District Courts of Appeals (DCA)
Right-click on any of the links below and choose "Open Link in New Window" to view current information on any of the DCAs:
15 judges serve in the First DCA,
13 judges serve in the Second DCA,
10 judges serve in the Third DCA,
12 judges serve in the Fourth DCA, and
13 judges serve in the Fifth DCA.
That makes a total of 63 DCA judges.
The wisdom of creating the DCA is beyond question. To visit the Florida DCA public website, click on the Florida District Courts picture above.
By 1994, the DCAs were hearing about 20,000 appeals annually. Literally, it would be impossible for a single appellate court to hear that many cases today. The Florida Supreme Court's case number runs around 2,000 a year, which is considered a full docket.
DCA judges must meet the same eligibility requirements for appointment to office as Justices of the Supreme Court, and they are subject to the same procedures and conditions for discipline and removal from office. Like Supreme Court Justices, district court judges also serve terms of six years and are eligible for successive terms under a merit retention vote of the electors in their districts. In each district court, a chief judge, who is selected by the body of district court judges, is responsible for the administrative duties of the court.
Until 1973, Florida had more different kinds of trial courts than any state except New York. A movement developed in the late 1960s to reform this confusing system. As a result, Florida now has a simple two-tier court system. A temporary exception was the municipal court, which was not abolished until January 1, 1977. Most of these courts in major population areas were abolished on January 1, 1973.
The majority of jury trials in Florida take place before one judge sitting as judge of the circuit court. The circuit courts are sometimes referred to as courts of general jurisdiction, in recognition of the fact that most criminal and civil cases originate at this level.
The Constitution provides that a circuit court shall be established to serve each judicial circuit established by the Legislature. There are 20 judicial circuits. Right-click on the picture of the Leon County Courthouse and choose "Open Link in New Window" to go to the Florida circuit courts website. Within each circuit, there may be any number of judges, depending upon the population and caseload of the particular area.
To be eligible for the office of circuit judge, a person must be a resident elector of Florida and must have been admitted to the practice of law in the State for the preceding five years. Circuit court judges are elected by the voters of the circuits in nonpartisan, contested elections against other persons who choose to qualify as candidates for the position.
Circuit court judges serve for six-year terms, and they are subject to the same disciplinary standards and procedures as Supreme Court justices and district court judges. A chief judge is chosen from among the circuit judges in each judicial circuit to carry out administrative responsibilities for all trial courts (both circuit and county courts) within the circuit.
The Florida Constitution establishes a county court in each of Florida's 67 counties. The number of judges in each county court varies with the population and caseload of the county. County judges who have been members of the Bar for at least five years are eligible for assignment to circuit court, and they are frequently assigned as such within the judicial circuit that embraces their counties. Right-click on the picture of the Hardee County Courthouse and choose "Open Link in New Window" to view the State County Court website.
County judges serve four-year terms, and they are subject to the same disciplinary standards, and to the jurisdiction of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, as all other judicial officers. In lieu of impeachment, however, they are subject to suspension by the Governor.