There are three major branches of government: the legislative branch,
the executive branch and the judicial branch.
Information relating to the legislature is public information and much of
it is available free of charge.
House and Senate calendars, Florida Statutes, bill history, bill text, and
information about your legislators, lobbyists and the legislature are accessible on the Internet at
Understanding the political process
An understanding of the structure is critically important for working with legislators. There
are three major branches of government: the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch.
Each plays a particular role in the political process and in ensuring the health, safety and welfare of Florida's
Legislative Branch - The Legislative Branch establishes laws and determines
general policies of the state. It consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Regular legislative
sessions have a maximum life of 60 consecutive days. This may be extended, however, by a three-fifths vote of
A break-down of the Florida legislative branch includes:
Executive Branch - The Executive Branch administers the laws and makes policy
recommendations to the Legislature. In 2001, it consists of seven state agencies with the heads of the agencies
serving as the Florida Cabinet. In 2002, the Department of Education will no longer serve as a Cabinet Agency. A
breakdown of the Florida Cabinet and term restrictions include:
- The House of Representatives
Term of Office: Two years
Term Limit: Eight years
Presiding Officer: Speaker of the House
- The Senate
Term of Office: Four years
Term Limit: Eight years
Presiding Officer: President of the Senate
Judicial Branch - The Judicial Branch interprets the laws and applies the Constitution. It
consists of the Supreme Court, the five district Courts of Appeals, 20 circuit courts and 67 county courts.
- Governor, limited to two consecutive four-year terms
- Secretary of State, unlimited four-year terms
- Attorney General, unlimited four-year terms
- Comptroller, unlimited four-year terms
- Treasurer, unlimited four-year terms
- Commissioner of Agriculture, unlimited four-year terms
- Commissioner of Education, unlimited four-year terms
- Supreme Court,seven justices, highest court in the state
- District Court of Appeals, five districts, hears appeals from Circuit Court
- Circuit Court, 20 circuits, hears civil and criminal cases requiring a jury
- County Court, 67 courts, generally handles non-jury trials
How an idea becomes law
- Either house may originate any type of legislation. 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 be amended, passed, or failed.
- If passed, the bill moves to other committees of reference or to the full house.
- The full house 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.
Influencing the legislative process
The legislative process has its own language and way of doing things. If you have just a rudimentary
understanding of the process, your effectiveness will increase greatly.
Obtain the latest calendar indicating legislative dates for interim committee meetings, bill filing
deadlines, and regular sessions. These are available on-line at the Online Sunshine website,
Learn how to read a House or Senate bill. Understand the difference between a committee Substitute and
a Proposed Committee Bill.
Get on a committee mailing list and develop a relationship with legislative committee staff members.
Become a resource to them.
Begin to understand the state appropriations process. This is an exceedingly complex process primarily
because it is a yearlong process, but final decisions are made rapidly. It is very difficult to have an
impact on this process, but in a time of limited resources, effective impact is critical.
Know how to obtain accurate and up-to-date information on issues of importance to you. This will help
you be effective, and your legislator will appreciate your efforts to remain informed.
Your local legislator will be able to provide you with information if you cannot access the Internet and
the Online Sunshine website.