Articles of Today's Constitution
Article I - Declaration of Rights
This is Florida's Bill of Rights, which includes freedom of speech, freedom of the press, equal protection of the laws, right of a jury trial, freedom of worship, and other traditional U.S. civil liberties. Some additional rights include the right to work (to not be required to join a union), the right of public employees to bargain collectively, the right to privacy, access to public records and open meetings, and a "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights."
Article II - General Provisions
This establishes state boundaries, designates three branches of government, authorizes a state seal and flag, and designates Tallahassee as the state capital. Other, less traditional, provisions include a code of ethics for state and local government officers and employees, designation of English as the official language of Florida, and a requirement that state policy "conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty" with laws to abate water, air, and noise pollution.
Article III - Legislature
This establishes a House and Senate, with House members elected for two years and Senators for four years. It also requires an annual state budget and planning process which includes a budget stabilization fund (or "rainy day" fund) to cover revenue shortages caused by economic events.
Article IV - Executive
This establishes the offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor, as well as Florida's unique Cabinet, which includes an elected Secretary of State, Attorney General, Comptroller, Treasurer, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commissioner of Education. It authorizes up to 25 executive departments, each supervised by the Governor or Lieutenant Governor, individual Cabinet members, or the Governor and Cabinet. While it leaves the number and functions of executive departments to statutory law, it requires there will be a Game and Fresh water Fish Commission, Department of Veteran Affairs, and Department of Elderly Affairs.
Article V - Judiciary Appeals
This establishes four levels of state courts - County Courts, Circuit Courts, District Courts of Appeal, and Supreme Court. It specifies nonpartisan election of County Judges for four years and Circuit Judges for six years. It specifies appointment of Supreme Court Justices and District Courts of Appeal Judges by the Governor from a list prepared by the Judicial Nominating Commission. Voters then decide in general elections whether to retain or not retain them for succeeding six-year terms. It also provides for election of Clerks of Circuit Courts, State's Attorneys, and Public Defenders.
Article VI - Suffrage and Election
This specifies dates of general elections; specifies qualifications to vote; disqualifies convicted felons and the mentally incompetent; provides the form of an oath administered to persons registering to vote; and leaves to statutory law the details of special elections and referenda. It also limits the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Cabinet members, State Senators and Representatives, and U.S. Representatives to no more than eight consecutive years in each office (and U.S. Senators to no more than 12 years).
Article VII - Finance and Taxation
This requires that all taxes and appropriations must be provided by the legislature; that most bond issues be approved by voters; it limits the authority to borrow; and it specifies taxing authority and exemptions. It limits annual increases in state revenues to the rate of personal income growth. It limits increases in assessment of homes to either 3 percent a year or the rate of increase in consumer prices, whichever is lower. It prohibits a state personal income tax; limits inheritance taxes; and provides a homestead exemption of $25,000.
Article VIII - Local Government
This establishes the authority of the state to create, abolish or change counties and municipalities, specifies their powers, and requires that county officials must include County Commissioners and separately elected Clerk, Sheriff, Tax Appraiser, Tax Collector, and Supervisor of Elections.
Article IX - Education
This provides authority to establish by statute a uniform system of public schools, institutions of higher learning, and other public education programs as needed. The Board of Education, consisting of the Governor and Cabinet supervises this system, which is administered by the commissioner of education. It specifies one school district per county, with a superintendant and school board for each.
Article X - Miscellaneous
This article consists of 16 sections, including the authority to have a state militia; protection from seizure by a court of a person's home; a state lottery; the public ownership of lands under all navigable waters; and a limit on saltwater net fishing.
Article XI - Amendments
This provides five ways to amend Florida's constitution: a vote by three-fifths of each house of the legislature and majority vote in a general election; a three-fourths vote in each house of the legislature and majority vote in a special election; a Constitution Revision Commission (meeting in 1978 and every 20 years thereafter) and majority vote in a general election; statewide ballot initiative, after collection of sufficient signatures; and constitutional convention of elected delegates and majority vote in a general election. It also specifies that a Tax and Budget Reform Commission will meet every 10 years (beginning in 1990) to review the state's tax and budget laws, including constitutional limits, and submit changes to voters in the next general election.
Article XII - Schedule
These 21 sections provided for an orderly transition from the 1885 constitution to the present one.