Government of Florida
Polity typeSub-national administrative division (federated state)
Part ofUnited States of America
ConstitutionConstitution of Florida
Legislative branch
Meeting placeFlorida Capitol
Upper house
Presiding officerKathleen Passidomo, President
Lower house
NameHouse of Representatives
Presiding officerPaul Renner, Speaker
Executive branch
Head of State and Government
CurrentlyRon DeSantis
Deputy leaderLieutenant Governor
HeadquartersState Capitol
Judicial branch
NameJudiciary of Florida
CourtsCourts of Florida
Supreme Court of Florida
Chief judgeCarlos G. Muñiz

The government of Florida is established and operated according to the Constitution of Florida and is composed of 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; 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.

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.[1] Each office term is limited to two four-year terms.[2]


Main article: Governor of Florida

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.[3] 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 are not in active service of the United States. At least once every legislative session, the governor is required to deliver the "State of the State Address" to the Florida Legislature regarding the condition and operation of the state government and to suggest new legislation.


Main article: Florida Cabinet

The Turlington Building in Tallahassee, headquarters of the Department of Education

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 2010, 2014, etc.).

The Florida attorney general is the state's chief legal officer. As defined in the Florida Constitution,[4] the attorney general appoints a statewide prosecutor who may prosecute violations of criminal law occurring in or affecting two or more judicial circuits. The attorney general is responsible for the Department of Legal Affairs.[5] The attorney general is head of the Florida Department of Legal Affairs.[6][7]

The Florida chief financial officer's duties include monitoring the state's 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.[8] The chief financial officer is the head of the Florida Department of Financial Services (FDFS).[6]

The Florida commissioner of agriculture is the head of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

Agencies and departments

Main article: List of Florida state agencies

The purpose of agencies is to promulgate rules to implement legislation. In April 2014, there were 25,362 administrative rules, and eight agencies have over 1,000 rules each, of which the most heavily regulated agencies are the Department of Financial Services and Department of Health.[9] The Florida Administrative Register (FAR) is the daily publication containing proposed rules and notices of state agencies.[10] The regulations are codified in the Florida Administrative Code (FAC).[11] There are also numerous decisions, opinions and rulings of state agencies.[12]

The state had about 122,000 employees in 2010.[13][14]

Legislative branch

Main article: Florida Legislature

Chamber of the Florida Senate

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.[15] 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.[16] Members of both houses are term limited to serve a maximum of eight years.[17] There are also state auditors led by the Florida auditor general who is appointed by the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee,[18][19][20] the utility-regulating Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC),[21][6] and the Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA).[6]

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,[22] by joint proclamation of the speaker of the House and senate president or by three-fifths vote of the members of both houses.[23] 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.

Its session laws are compiled into the Laws of Florida,[24] and the Florida Statutes are the codified statutory laws of the state which have general applicability.[24]

Judicial branch

Main article: Judiciary of Florida

The Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee

The Florida State Courts System is the unified state court system. The Florida State Courts System consists of the:

The Supreme Court of Florida is the highest court of Florida and consists of seven judges: the chief justice and six justices. The Court is the final arbiter of Florida law, and its decisions are binding authority for all other state courts. The five Florida District Courts of Appeal are the intermediate appellate courts.

The 20 Florida circuit courts are trial courts of original jurisdiction for most controversies.[25] The circuit courts primarily handle civil cases where the amount in controversy is greater than $15,000, and felony criminal cases, as well as appeals from county courts. Circuit courts also have jurisdiction over domestic relations, juvenile dependency, juvenile delinquency, and probate matters. The 67 Florida county courts have original jurisdiction over misdemeanor criminal cases, including violations of county and municipal ordinances, and in civil cases whose value in controversy does not exceed $15,000.


Each civil entity has its budget: state, county, and municipal.


In June 2015, the state's debt was $25.7 billion.[26]

Capital city

The commissioners charged by the government of the unified Florida to select a permanent capital selected Tallahassee, then between the two major cities of Florida, Pensacola and Saint Augustine, as the state capital, in 1823.[27] The White people expelled the Native Americans, who were opposed to leaving their land, before settling Tallahassee.[28] The commissioners were Dr. W.H. Simmons, from St. Augustine, and John Lee Williams, from Pensacola. Richard Keith Call and a founder of Jacksonville, John Bellamy, wanted the capital in what is now Lake County but their efforts failed.[27]

From the beginning of Tallahassee's history there were multiple attempts to move the state capital. A July 1957 Florida Historical Quarterly article stated that this was because of Tallahassee's distance from other settlements.[29]

As Florida's size and population grew and spread south, the center of the state's population and the geographic center of the state changed. Using data from the 2010 U.S. Census, according to the Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research, the state's center of population was southern Polk County. The geographic center of the state is Brooksville. Because Tallahassee became increasingly far from many Floridians, there were additional proposals to move the capital to Orlando, a more centrally-located city, in the late 1960s.[30] The City of Orlando, in 1967, passed a referendum stating that it would accept becoming the capital.[29] These proposals stopped after the new Florida Capitol opened in Tallahassee in 1977. Politicians from North Florida had opposed the idea of moving the state capital. Adam C. Smith of the Tampa Bay Times argued in 2016 that Tallahassee is no longer an appropriate location for the capital, and he cited an American Economic Review article that stated that state capitals far from their populations are more prone to corruption than those that are not.[30]

Local government

Further information: Administrative divisions of Florida

See also: Government of Miami-Dade County, Government of Brevard County, and Government of Miami

A map of Florida showing county names and boundaries

There are four types of local governments in Florida: counties, municipalities, school districts, and special districts.[2]

Florida consists of 67 counties. Each county has officers considered "state" officers: these officials are elected locally, and their salaries and office expenses are also paid locally, but they cannot be removed from office or replaced locally, but only by the governor. The state officers subject to this requirement are the sheriff, state's attorney, public defender, tax collector, supervisor of elections, clerk of the circuit court (though styled as such, each circuit having multiple counties within its jurisdiction has a separate elected clerk within each county, and the office also handles official county records not pertaining to judicial matters), property appraiser, and judges.

There is one school district for each county; the Florida Constitution allows adjoining counties to merge their districts upon voter approval.[31] The superintendent is by default an elected official; however, the Florida Constitution allows county voters to make the position an appointed one.[32]

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, and fire departments, and provide essential services such as water, waste collection, etc. In unincorporated areas of a county, the county itself can provide some of 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.[2]

Orlando City Hall

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.[2]

In some cases, the municipal and county governments have merged into a consolidated government. However, smaller municipal governments can be created inside of a consolidated municipality/county. In Jacksonville, the municipal government has taken over the responsibilities normally given to the county government, Duval County, and smaller municipalities that exist within it.

Among special districts are "community development districts" which have virtually all the power of a city or county (except, notably, they do not have police power). Chapter 190 of the Florida Statutes governs these districts. Notable CDD's include the Reedy Creek Improvement District (the location of Walt Disney World) and substantially all of The Villages (the giant Central Florida retirement community).

Many counties have a "Soil and Water Conservation District," a residue of Dust Bowl politics. Elected officials are unpaid. Much of their budget is spent on engineering staff. Critics are trying to dismantle these districts, as being obsolete.[33][34]

See also


  1. ^ 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 (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.
  2. ^ a b c d Dye, T.R., Jewett, A. & MacManus, S.A. (2007) Politics in Florida. Tallahassee: John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government.
  3. ^ Article IV, Sections 1(a) and 4, Florida Constitution.
  4. ^ Article IV, Section 4(b), Florida Constitution.
  5. ^, accessed May 21, 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d "State of Florida Organizational Chart". Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  7. ^ Office of the Attorney General (Department of Legal Affairs). Florida Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.
  8. ^ Article IV, Section 4(c), Florida Constitution.
  9. ^ Dockery, Paula (April 4, 2014). "Regulatory reform easier said than done". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 11A. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  10. ^ "Florida Administrative Register - Florida Administrative Law - Guides @ UF at University of Florida". University of Florida Libraries. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
  11. ^ "Florida Administrative Code - Florida Administrative Law - Guides @ UF at University of Florida". University of Florida Libraries. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
  12. ^ "Agency Adjudication - Florida Administrative Law - Guides @ UF at University of Florida". University of Florida Libraries. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
  13. ^ Cervenka, Susanne (24 October 2010). "Workers stockpile unused leave time". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. pp. 1A.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ 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).
  17. ^ 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. [1]
  18. ^ Sections 11.40, 11.45, and 11.51, Florida Statutes.
  19. ^ Florida Auditor General, Ballotpedia
  20. ^ General, Florida Auditor. "Florida Auditor General". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  21. ^ Section 350.001, Florida Statutes.
  22. ^ Article III, Section 3, Florida Constitution.
  23. ^ Section 11.011, Florida Statutes, and Article III, Section 3(c)(2), Florida Constitution.
  24. ^ a b "Statutes & Constitution: Online Sunshine". Florida Legislature. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
  25. ^ Fla. Stat. § 26.012(5) (2007)
  26. ^ "Debt debate: Do we borrow enough? - December 8, 2015 - Lloyd Dunkelberger - HT Politics". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  27. ^ a b Powers, Ormund. "County Never Made It As Florida's Capital" (Archive). Orlando Sentinel. April 8, 1998. Retrieved on May 27, 2016.
  28. ^ Clark, James C. "How Tallahassee Became The Capital Of Florida" (Archive). Orlando Sentinel. March 13, 1994. Retrieved on May 26, 2016.
  29. ^ a b Andrews, Mark. "Tallahassee Has Had Shaky Capital Tenure" (Archive). Orlando Sentinel. May 3, 1992. Retrieved on May 27, 2016.
  30. ^ a b Smith, Adam C. "Tallahassee no longer fits as Florida's capital" (Archive). Tampa Bay Times. Saturday August 9, 2014. Retrieved on May 26, 2016.
  31. ^ Archived 2008-12-08 at the Wayback Machine Florida Constitution, Article IX, Section 4
  32. ^ Archived 2008-12-08 at the Wayback Machine Florida Constitution, Article IX, Section 5
  33. ^ White, Gary. "Unpaid officials rescue obscure agency from demise". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  34. ^ "Hopefuls run to end funding for Dust Bowl-era conservation districts". The Tampa Tribune. 29 October 2010. Archived from the original on 2012-08-03. Retrieved 2020-01-30.