Florida’s sixth and present constitution was adopted in 1968. Amendments may be proposed by a three-fifths majority of each house of the state legislature, by a commission appointed to amend the constitution, by a petition of voters, or by a constitutional convention. To become effective, amendments must be approved by the voters of the state.
The constitution provides for an executive branch of government headed by a governor, who is elected for a four-year term and who is limited to two consecutive terms. A lieutenant governor is elected on a joint ticket with the governor. The cabinet is made up of a secretary of state, attorney general, comptroller, treasurer, commissioner of agriculture, and commissioner of education. The cabinet officers are elected for four-year terms and may succeed themselves. Many duties normally executed by the chief executive in other states are carried out in Florida by boards and commissions made up of various combinations of cabinet members and the governor.
This “cabinet system” gives Florida a comparatively weak governor whose authority is shared with independently elected administrative officials. At the time of election the governor, the lieutenant governor, and each cabinet member must be at least 30 years of age and must have been a state resident for the preceding seven years. The attorney general must also have been a member of the Florida Bar for the preceding five years. The governor may veto legislation, but a two-thirds vote in each house of the legislature may override his veto.
The state legislature consists of a 40-member Senate and a 120-member House of Representatives. State senators are elected for four-year terms, half of them every two years. State representatives are elected for two-year terms.
The legislature meets each year in Tallahassee for 60 days. The governor may call 20-day special sessions. The length of regular or special sessions may be extended by a three-fifths majority vote in each house.
The highest court in Florida is the Supreme Court. There are seven justices who select a chief justice from their ranks by popular vote. Justices are appointed by the governor from a list of people recommended by the Judicial Nominating Commission. When justices’ terms expire, their names appear on the general election ballot for a merit retention vote, if they wish to remain in office. The Supreme Court hears cases including final orders imposing death sentences and district court decisions declaring a state statute or provision of the state constitution invalid. Lower courts include district courts of appeal, circuit courts, county judges’ courts, county courts, criminal courts of record, juvenile courts, civil courts of record, small claims courts, and municipal courts.
Florida is divided into 67 counties, most of which are administered by a board of five elected commissioners. The county commissioners are responsible for matters at the county level, including local elections, taxes, public welfare, and education. Other elected county officials include a county judge, sheriff, tax assessor, tax collector, superintendent of public instruction, and surveyor.
Most of the larger cities in Florida are governed under the council and city manager form of municipal government. Notable exceptions are Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa, which have the mayor and council form of municipal government. Some cities, such as Jacksonville and Miami, have municipal governments that are wholly or partially consolidated with the governments of the counties in which they are located. Florida elects two U.S. senators and 25 members of the House of Representatives. The state casts 27 electoral votes in presidential elections. "Florida" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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