The 2012 legislative session has ended. The budget has been written and approved. The once-every-10-year reapportionment process is finished and has been given the okay by both the Florida Supreme Court and the United States Justice Department.
The governor has taken action on the bills that made it to his desk. Now, with the focus being turned towards 2013 and the next legislative session (and a little thing called the election cycle coming in between) I thought it would be a good time to look at a part of state government that does not get as much attention as it should: the Florida Cabinet.
The Cabinet is comprised of the four highest elected officers in the state: the governor, the attorney general, the chief financial officer and the commissioner of agriculture. Together these four individuals wield great power and influence, although their impact as a group is hard to quantify in the day-to-day lives of the average Floridian.
In 1998, the voters approved a downsizing of the cabinet from seven members to its current makeup of four. The governor, although he has, proportionately, the same vote as the other members, is the tie-breaker on any vote. In other words, if the cabinet takes a vote and the result is 2-2,whatever side the governor voted on must be the prevailing side. This is a power that is given to the governor by the state constitution.
Each member of the Florida Cabinet serves a four-year term. Due to term limits cabinet members cannot serve for more than eight consecutive years. Florida’s Constitution states: “The supreme executive power shall be vested in a governor…”
The attorney general serves as Florida’s chief legal officer. The constitution lays out the responsibilities of the chief financial officer as “…the chief fiscal officer of the state, and shall settle and approve accounts against the state, and shall keep all state funds and securities.” Finally, the agriculture commissioner “shall have supervision of matters pertaining to agriculture except as otherwise provided by law.” The agriculture commissioner also oversees Florida’s state-level consumer services offices.
I first saw the Florida Cabinet in action back in the mid-90’s. It was still a seven member body at that point in time. I recall sitting in the cabinet room watching the highest public officials presenting resolutions honoring various individuals and groups for their work, discussing bond financing and a host of other day-to-day issues that are rarely reported on. After the initial awe of seeing this integral power center of Florida’s government had worn off, I realized that the cabinet was much like a city council on steroids. The budget may be bigger, the compliance with the statute books a far bigger task than a city’s code of ordinances, but the task is basically the same: keep the state moving forward as smoothly as possible.
Land usage is one of the big issues the cabinet deals with. For example, the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans Nursing Home in Land O’ Lakes (Pasco County) would not have been possible if not for the approval of the cabinet. A delegation of lawmakers, veterans groups and county officials traveled to the Capitol and encouraged the Cabinet to support the Pasco site from all others that were in contention for the facility.
A decade ago there was much publicity over an attempt by the state park service to close down the North Anclote Sandbar, a popular daytime stop for boaters just north of Pinellas County and off of Pasco’s west coast. A citizen group, Save Our Sandbar, and local lawmakers urged the cabinet to keep the sandbar open. The cabinet agreed and 10 years later the sandbar remains open to day-visitors.
If you are interested in learning more about the responsibilities of the Florida Cabinet please let me know. I welcome your questions about the legislative process, state government or any related matters. Please feel free to leave your questions in the comment section and I will answer them in an upcoming post. If there is a specific topic you would like me to write about please let me know as well.