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.

Online Sunshine
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 citizens.
   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 each house.
   A break-down of the Florida legislative branch includes:
  • The House of Representatives
    Members: 120
    Term of Office: Two years
    Term Limit: Eight years
    Presiding Officer: Speaker of the House
  • The Senate
    Members: 40
    Term of Office: Four years
    Term Limit: Eight years
    Presiding Officer: President of the Senate
   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:
  • 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
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.
  • 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

Red Bullet 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.
Red Bullet 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,
Red Bullet Learn how to read a House or Senate bill. Understand the difference between a committee Substitute and a Proposed Committee Bill.
Red Bullet Get on a committee mailing list and develop a relationship with legislative committee staff members. Become a resource to them.
Red Bullet 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.
Red Bullet 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.
Red Bullet Your local legislator will be able to provide you with information if you cannot access the Internet and the Online Sunshine website.

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