Structure of US Government The United States of America is a Federation of fifty states plus six territories. A Federation is a country that is comprised of more than one self-governing regions that are united by a central, or ‘federal,’ government. The term Federation comes from the Latin word foedus, meaning ‘covenant,’ and the term implies a basic relationship between the Central government and its member-states. Certain powers and duties are expressly given to parts of the Federal Government because, for reasons of security and stability, there can be but one system. Certain other powers are left to the states themselves chiefly because various problems are best dealt with by those closest to them, and it would be counter the spirit of limited government and diversity to create a “one-size-fits-all” policy for addressing complex issues. Likewise the states do not micromanage every problem that crops up within their borders; they send power to counties and municipalities who work together to form local policy and implement statewide statues.
Government in the US is very decentralized, while authority is split between the federal and state governments; the federal government itself consists of three coequal branches. Congress, addressed in the first article of the Constitution, governs the Republic and is responsible for passing all laws as well as controlling the nation’s currency, levying taxes, borrowing money, establishing courts and distributing funding to every government organization, plus other duties. The House of Representatives represents the people of the various states and seats in the House are given in proportion to state population. Each house of Congress has the power to introduce legislation on any subject except revenue bills, which must originate in the House of Representatives. A bill must pass a majority in both chambers before it can be sent to the President. Additionally, both bills must be worded identically, for this purpose joint-committees are formed to streamline both chamber’s versions. The smaller of the two houses of Congress is the Senate, which is made up of two Senators from each state. The Senate has certain powers reserved to it specifically, including the right to confirm presidential appointments of judges, officials and ambassadors as well as authority to ratify all treaties. The House has the sole right to bring charges of misconduct, Impeachment, against an official, but the Senate is granted sole power to remove those officials from office if found guilty (rug.nl, 2004).
Article II of the Constitution creates a president to be the Republic’s executive and also provides for the election of a vice-president who succeeds the president if he dies or is incapacitated. Section 1 of Article II sets the requirements to hold office of President. The president must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, be at least 35 years of age, and have resided in the US for 14 years. Per the Constitution’s instructions, the President serves a term of four years. The 22nd amendment subsequently limited the President to two terms. Presidential elections are held every four years. The President is not elected at large, but rather in 50 different statewide elections. Each state is given presidential electors based on its number or Congressmen plus Senators. The people vote for the electors, who then choose the President. Within the executive branch, the President has extensive powers to manage national affairs and the workings of the federal bureaucracy. The President can issue executive orders to federal agencies, which carry the force of law but do not require Congressional sanction. As Commander-in-Chief the President has control of the country’s armed forces, additionally he may also call units of the National Guard into federal service (nationmaster.com, 2003). The President is also responsible for submitting to Congress an operating budget for the federal government.
The third tier at the national level is the judiciary, which consists of the Supreme Court, 11 courts of appeals, 91 district courts, and 3 courts of special jurisdiction. Article III section 1 gives Congress the power to create and eliminate federal courts at its discretion, as well as the authority to set the number of judges who will sit on the federal judiciary. The Supreme Court is a coequal branch and cannot, however, be abolished by Congress (rug.nl, 2004). Federal judges, including Supreme Court Justices, are chosen by the President and subject to confirmation in the Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee conducts confirmation hearings for each judicial nominee (uscourts.gov, 2002). The reach of federal courts extends to both civil actions for damages and to criminal cases that involve federal law. Article III has resulted in an intricate set of relationships between federal and state courts. Typically, federal courts will not hear cases involving the laws of individual states. Though, some cases over which federal courts exercise jurisdiction may be heard by state courts. Consequently, both court systems have exclusive jurisdiction in select areas and concurrent jurisdiction in others (rug.nl, 2004). According to Article III, federal judges serve during “good behavior,” which has come to mean they sit until they retire, die, or commit a crime or infraction.
Though Congress governs the Republic, the country is actually run by the federal bureaucracy, which is made of political appointees and career civil servants. Vague spheres of authority allow many areas of the bureaucracy to function with a considerable amount of autonomy. The President nominates, and the Senate confirms, the heads of all executive departments and agencies, together with hundreds of other high-ranking federal officials. In 2003, over 3000 executive agency positions were subject to Presidential appointment, with only 1,200 requiring Senate approval. The vast majority of federal employees are however selected through the Civil Service system. There are four main sectors in the federal bureaucracy: Cabinet Departments, Executive Agencies, Regulatory Agencies and government organizations. The 15 departments are the major service organizations of federal government and a presidential appointee heads each one. Independent Executive Agencies, such as the EPA, are not located within a particular department but instead are autonomous and report directly to the President. Independent Regulatory Agencies make and execute policy in a particular area because Congress is unable to handle the intricacy and technicalities necessary to implement specific laws. Such groups include the Federal Reserve Board and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Governmental Organizations usually perform a specific task or function and include bodies such as the TVA and the FDIC (uky.edu, 2005).
Below the federal level, the United States breaks down into fifty different states, each with an independent government. The states derive their power within the federal arrangement from the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which stipulates that powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states. States are Constitutionally bound to give “full faith and credit” to the public acts and records of other states, extradite criminals across state lines, and recognize privileges and immunities of all US citizens regardless of their state of residence. Article IV, section 4, dictates that all state governments must be Republican in form and additionally, the states are prohibited from using their powers under the 10th Amendment to undermine the federal government’s authority. Every state has its own constitution from which, all governmental institutions and officials within draw their power. Florida, the 27th state in the Union, is currently operating under its 6th constitution, which was adopted in 1968. The Florida State Constitution has 12 articles addressing everything from the branches of government to election procedures to municipal governments.
Like the national government, state governments have three branches that are more or less equal in function and scope to their federal counterparts. The chief executive of a state is the governor, though unlike the federal executive, state executive branches often include more than one elected official. All states except Nebraska, have bicameral legislatures, with the upper house generally called the Senate and the lower house the House of Representatives, though often there is little functional difference between the two (rug.nl, 2004). In the same way as the federal government, the states also utilize a complex bureaucracy to carry out legislation and to regulate and oversee various sectors of the state. Since the 1970’s, the federal government has been in the process of sending power that had once been national prerogative, back down to the state level. As a result, state bureaucracies have increased dramatically.
Florida’s laws are made by the State Legislature, which is split between the 120-member House of Representatives and the 40-member Senate (myfloridahouse.gov, 2005). House members are elected from the state’s 120 districts are eligible to serve four 2 year terms. Senators are also elected from districts and may serve two 4-year terms. Half of the state’s Senators are up for election every two years while every four years all House seats are up for election. The House Speaker, Allen Bense, leads the House and appoints various committee chairs. The leader of the Senate is the President, Tom Lee, who is responsible for selecting the Majority Leader and appointing committee chairs. The Legislature convenes in regular session annually beginning on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March; sessions last 60 days. Committees from both chambers meet during the months leading up to the regular session, on a schedule set by their respective officers (myfloridahouse.gov, 2005). Special sessions, for dealing with a specific issue, may be called for by either the Governor or by the leaders of both houses, and last for twenty consecutive days. As in Congress, for a bill to become a law, both houses must approve it in identical form.
The executive branch in Florida consists of the Governor and the Cabinet. The Governor is the chief executive and is elected to serve a four-year term. Florida’s current governor is Jeb Bush, who was elected in 1998, reelected in 2001, and is the 43rd governor of Florida (state.fl.us, 2005). The Cabinet serves as the decision and rule making body for the state and consists of the Governor as well as the Attorney General-Charlie Crist, the Chief Financial Officer-Tom Gallagher, and the Commissioner of Agriculture-Charles Bronson. The Governor heads the Cabinet but is “assisted” by the three other Cabinet officials who are also elected by the people. Each Cabinet officer serves a four-year term with a two-term limit and is responsible for the direction of at least one state department. The Governor is more or less in charge of the administration of most of the state’s other departments (myflorida.com, 2005).
The Florida court system has four levels: the State Supreme Court, circuit courts, appeals courts and county courts. Seven Justices serve on the State Supreme Court, which is the highest Court in the state and whose decisions are binding to all other Florida courts. State Justices are not given life tenure, but are subject instead to a system called “merit retention,” whereby judges are named to the court by the governor, but then come before the voters at the next scheduled election. Each of Florida’s circuit courts has jurisdiction over one of the state’s 20 judicial circuits. Circuit court judges are elected in non-partisan elections and serve six-year terms. Circuit courts exercise both original and appellate jurisdiction. The state’s five separate Courts of Appeals hear appellate cases from county courts. There is one county court in each on the State’s 67 counties. County courts exercise original jurisdiction and are presided over by judges elected to six-year terms.
Article VIII section 1 of the Florida Constitution divides the state into counties. There are currently 67 counties in Florida, each with their own policies and administrative personal. Counties are governed according to their Charters from the State. They are the creations of the state legislature and as such can be regulated and dissolved by it. The governing body of the County is the Commission, which writes the budget, sets County millage, provides an assortment of specialized services, oversees various countywide departments, and governs unincorporated areas. In Pinellas County there are seven County Commissioners; five Commissioners represent specific districts within the county and two are elected at large. The responsibility for day-to-day management of countywide affairs falls to the County Manager and his staff. It’s his job to implement the decisions of the Commission and to oversee the County’s 58 departments (pinellascounty.org, 2005). Various elected officials within the county include the Clerk of the Court, who maintains court records and organizes court proceedings (Pinellasclerk.org, 2005), the Property Appraiser, who investigates the market value of county real estate, the Supervisor of Elections, who runs countywide elections, and the Public Defender (pinellascounty.org, 2005). The Sheriff is also elected at large, as is the State Attorney and the County Tax Collector.
Within Counties there are special districts; which are autonomous political entities that have specific powers and are charged with a particular task or goal. One of the largest special districts in Pinellas County is the School Board, which sets policies for all public schools in the district. Seven members govern the School Board; five must live in definite districts, while two serve at large. All of them are elected countywide in partisan elections and serve four-year staggered terms. Local school revenue is derived almost exclusively from property taxes. While the State and the county set the millage rates, local school boards can levy further taxes within the confines set by the State. Another independent district is The Juvenile Welfare Board, which is committed to services for families and children. Rather than delivering services directly, the JWB contracts delivery of services through programs managed by different countywide agencies. Another independent district is the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, the County's source of public transportation. PSTA controls bus service, and transit services for the disabled (pinellascounty.org, 2005).
Within Pinellas County there are 24 separate incorporated municipalities. These cities charge taxes and provide services to their residents or contract with the County or the private sector to supply them (pinellascounty.org, 2005). Municipal governments are chartered by the state legislature, and their charters specify the objectives and the powers of the local government. In most cases, cities function independently but may work with the county or the state from time to time. The most common forms of local government include: the Mayor-Council system, the Commission system, and the City Manager system (rug.nl, 2004). The City Manager form of organization is by far the most common structure of administration, especially in smaller towns and suburbs. In these towns, the mayor is usually chairman of the city council and municipal operations are run by a professional city manager. Like most large cities, Pinellas County’s largest city, St. Petersburg, utilizes the strong Mayor/Council system; in which an elected mayor acts as chief executive and the city council acts as the legislature.
Beyond a mayor, city council, and city manager, local officials usually include a city attorney, who acts as legal advisor and advocate, and a city clerk who supervises elections and keeps records. Full-size bureaucracy is found even at the local level of government. The smallest municipalities employ bureaucratic officials and professional staffs to, among other things, provide assorted services, handle city records, issue licenses and permits, zone municipal areas and manage the city budget.
The United States of America is a federal republic in which power is shared between the national government and the various states. Within the states themselves, power is delegated in a process of devolution to counties and municipalities. The Census Bureau has recorded no less than 78,218 local governmental entities in the United States, including counties, municipalities, townships, and special districts (rug.nl, 2004). While the Nation may be federal to the extent that Congress allows, Constitutionally, there will always be a distinction between the federal government and the states. No such distinction exists within the states themselves. It was the states who created the national government, and Congress cannot single-handedly dismiss state officials, redraw state boundaries, or abolish a state entirely the way that state legislatures can do within their respective boundaries. As the federal government continues the trend of relinquishing power to the states, state, county, and municipal government’s take on an increasing burden and must inevitably enlarge their size, scope, and bureaucratic agencies; hence the maze-like array of jurisdictions and governing bodies we have today (rug.nl, 2004
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Структура правительства США Соединенные Штаты Америки являются Федерацией Штатов плюс пятьдесят шесть территорий. Федерация-это страна, которая состоит из более чем одного самоуправляющихся регионов, объединенных центральным, или Федеральная,’ государством. Термин "Федерация" происходит от латинского слова foedus, означающего ‘завет’, и термин подразумевает под собой элементарные отношения между Центральным правительством и его государств-членов. Определенные полномочия и обязанности четко дано в части федерального правительства, поскольку, по соображениям безопасности и стабильности, это может быть только одной системы. Некоторые другие полномочия оставлен на усмотрение самих государств, главным образом, потому что различные проблемы лучше всего решать со своими близкими, и это будет в противоречии с духом ограничена государством и разнообразия, чтобы создать “один-размер-подходит-всем” политики в решении сложных вопросов. Точно так же в Штатах не управляете каждой проблемой, которая всплывает в пределах их границ; они посылают власть в графствах и муниципалитетах, которые работают вместе, чтобы сформировать местные политики и реализации общегосударственных статуи..
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