Article I — Declaration of Rights
Florida’s Bill of Rights includes freedom of speech, freedom of the press, equal protection of the laws, right to a jury trial, the right to bear arms, freedom of worship and other traditional American liberties. Some additional rights include the right to work without having to join a union; the right to collective bargaining for public employees; the right to privacy; access to public records; open meetings; and a Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.
Article II — General Provisions
This section establishes the state’s boundaries, designates three branches of government, authorizes a state seal and flag, and designates Tallahassee as the state capital. It also includes a code of ethics for state and local government officers and employees, designates English as the official language in Florida and requires state policy to protect and conserve Florida’s natural resources and beauty.
Article III — Legislature
This section establishes a House and a Senate, with House members elected for two years and senators for four. It requires an annual state budget and a planning process, including a budget stabilization, or “rainy day,” fund for shortfalls caused by economic events.
Article IV — Executive
This article creates the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, and Florida’s unique Cabinet, which includes a secretary of state, an attorney general, a comptroller, a treasurer, a commissioner of agriculture and a commissioner of education. It authorizes up to 25 executive departments supervised by the governor and lieutenant governor, as well as the Cabinet or individual Cabinet members. It also requires establishment of a Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (renamed the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 1999), a Department of Veteran’s Affairs and a Department of Elderly Affairs.
Article V — Judiciary Appeals
This article establishes four levels of state courts: County Court, Circuit Court, District Courts of Appeal and Supreme Court. It stipulates that county judges will be chosen in nonpartisan elections for four-year terms, and circuit judges for six-year terms. It specifies the appointment of Supreme Court justices and District Courts of Appeal judges by the governor from a list prepared by the Judicial Nominating Commission. Voters decide to retain or not retain them for succeeding six-year terms. This section also provides for the election of clerks of Circuit Courts, state attorneys and public defenders.
Article VI — Suffrage and Election
This section specifies dates of general elections and qualifications to vote; disqualifies convicted felons and the mentally incompetent from voting; provides the form of an oath administered to persons registering to vote; and leaves to statutory law details of special elections and referenda. It also limits certain state officials, including the governor, senators and representatives, to no more than eight-year terms.
The state constitution has 12 Articles — independent, binding sections that deal with distinct subjects. Together they outline a framework for government and for citizens’ rights.
Article VII — Finance and Taxation
This section requires all taxes and appropriations to be provided by the Legislature; most bond issues to be approved by voters; and borrowing authority to be limited; and gives various specifics for taxing authority and exemptions. It also restricts annual increases in state revenues to the rate of personal income growth and limits increases in assessment of homes to either 3 percent a year or the rate of increase in consumer prices, whichever is lower. This section prohibits state personal income tax, limits inheritance taxes and provides for a homestead exemption.
Article VIII — Local Government
This article creates state authority to establish, abolish or change counties and municipalities, specifies their powers and requires that county officials include county commissioners and a separately elected clerk, sheriff, tax appraiser, tax collector and supervisor of elections.
Article IX — Education
This article establishes a uniform system of public schools, institutions of higher learning and other public education programs as needed. The Board of Education, comprising the governor and Cabinet, supervises this system, which is administered by the education commissioner. This section also specifies one school district per county and district leadership.
Article X — Miscellaneous
This article carries 27 sections, including the authority to have a state militia, protection from court seizure of one’s home, a state lottery, public ownership of lands under navigable waters, a limit on saltwater net fishing, an Everglades Trust Fund, workplaces without tobacco smoke, parental notice of termination of a minor’s pregnancy, and prohibition of medical licenses after repeated medical malpractice.
Article XI — Amendments
This section creates five ways to amend Florida’s Constitution, by: two forms of legislative proposal; a Constitution Revision Commission; a citizens’ ballot initiative; and a constitutional convention of elected delegates. It also establishes a Tax and Budget Reform Commission that meets, much like the Revision Commission, every 10 years. It reviews the state’s tax and budget laws, including constitutional limits, so as to submit proposals for changes to voters at general elections.
Article XII — Schedule
This article consists of 21 sections that provide for an orderly transition from the 1885 Constitution to the current one.