The three Branches of Government in the state of Georgia sample essay

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The State of Georgia is one of the South Atlantic States of the United States, and was once known to be one of the most remote and most sparsely settled of the original 13 English colonies. The state of Georgia occupies parts of six physiographic provinces: the Atlantic Coastal Plains (Sea Island section), the Gulf Coastal Plain (also called East Gulf Plain) the Piedmont (Piedmont Upland section), the Blue Ridge province (Southern section), the Ridge and Valley (Great Appalachian Valley) province, and the Appalachian Plateaus (Cumberland Plateau section).

With an area of 58,910 square miles, Georgia is the 21st largest state and the largest state east of the Mississippi River. Georgia has the second largest number of counties among U.S. states, with 159. Only Texas, with 254, has more. Florida has 67 counties and North Carolina has 100. According to the latest census estimates, Georgia had a population of 8,648,715 in 2003, pushing past New Jersey to become the 9th largest state in population. Of the southern states, only Texas (2nd largest) and Florida (4th) have larger populations.

Georgia added almost 500,000 residents between 2000 and 2003, giving the state a growth rate nearly twice the national rate and the second highest growth rate in the east. Approximately 69% of Georgia’s population live in what the Census Bureau calls metropolitan areas, defined as a central city and surrounding suburbs. This percentage is below the national average of 80%, and is about the same as the percentages in Tennessee, Alabama, and South Carolina. In Florida, 93%of the population lives in metro areas.

Metropolitan Atlanta, with an estimated population of 4.5 million, is the 9th largest metro area in the U.S. and is one of the nation’s fastest growing large metro areas. Most of Georgia’s other metropolitan areas—including Macon, Augusta, Savannah, Columbus, Albany, Athens, and Valdosta—have grown less rapidly than the national average. At $42,433, the median household income in Georgia in 1999 was slightly above the national average and higher than that of all other South-eastern states, except Virginia.

The State of Georgia was once an agricultural state and almost solely dependent upon cotton, Georgia since the 1930’s has greatly diversified its economy. Nowadays, Industry far outranks agriculture as a source of both jobs and income, and now Atlanta is one of the largest transportation center in the Southeastern United States. Georgia is popularly called the Empire State of the South, Because it is the largest state east of Mississippi and because of the fact that it is highly industrialized. Other nicknames for this state are the “Cracker State”, “the Goober State”, and “the Peach State”.
3 Branches of Government in Georgia

A.) Executive Branch

The Executive Branch, is the largest branch of the state government in terms of both employees and allocated funding, it is responsible for enforcing the law and for carrying out programs such as education, health, welfare and public transportation program of the Government. It has an allocation of 99 percent of the state budget devoted to its activities. The State of Georgia, up to this day, is administrated to by a Governor who happens to be the one who presides over the executive branch in this state.

A1.) The Governor

The Governor serves as the Chief executive of the State, He is the formal representative of the State of Georgia and as such, he greets visiting dignitaries and acts as spokesman for the state in dealings with other states and with the national government. The Governor is elected by the voters to serve a four-year term in office and may serve no more than two consecutive terms. In order to be elected as governor for the state of Georgia, a person must be at least thirty years old and must have been a U.S. citizen for fifteen years and a Georgia resident for six years. The said position holds a number of powers in the state government, including proposing new programs and laws for the state, proposing a state budget for the legislature to consider, vetoing legislation and appointing members of many of the boards in state government.

The Governor also has the authority to handle the state funds and is known to have strong budgetary powers. As the state’s chief executive, the governor’s major responsibility is to see to it that the laws are being carried out, Being the chief executive means that the governor is in theory the chief administrator over the state government’s executive agencies. One of the primary tools any chief executive can use to shape and control government administration is the power of appointment. By naming the heads of government agencies, the executive can have those agencies directed by people who are tuned in to his feelings and preferences and who owe their jobs to staying tuned in.

However, this does not mean that he exercises detailed supervision over the hundreds of state employees working at dozens of offices across the state. Instead, his supervision of the executive branch is ordinarily restricted to the formulation of broad goals and general policies which are to be implemented in detail at lower levels of the bureaucracy and which can be checked on periodically by the governor’s personal staff.

Usually only controversial matters and questions that cannot be settled by lower-level officials will come to the governor’s office for resolution. Administrative experts call this management by exception. That is, personal, detailed action by the governor usually only occurs during exceptional cases; his decisions at those times should then be used to guide the daily operations of state executive branch employees. The Governor can only be removed from office before the lapse of his term is through the process of impeachment and conviction by the state legislature.

Interestingly, Governors are not only involved in just executing or implementing laws; they are also actively involved in the process of making laws themselves. There are several major parts to the governor’s power in this area. During each legislative session, the governor may address the legislature to present to it his views, to propose bills, and to call for cooperation. Those bills must be formally introduced by members of the legislature. Bills passed by the legislature can be rejected, or vetoed, by the governor if he chooses.

To over-ride a veto, a two-thirds majority of both legislative chambers is required. The governor must make his veto decision within six days, if the legislature is still in session, or within forty days, if the legislature has adjourned; if the governor takes no action the bill automatically becomes law. Moreover, the governor also has a line item veto, on appropriations (budget) and on bills; he can reject a particular expenditure program without having to veto the whole bill which might include dozens of other programs which he strongly favors. To some degree, the governor can also control the very convening, or meeting, of the legislature.

He can call a special session of the legislature, which can consider only those issues he has denoted. For example, legislative approval of the new state constitution came during a special session held in the summer of 1981, and in 1989 a special session was held to change a provision in the state income tax law that was believed to be in violation of a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Most often when Georgia re-draws its state legislative and congressional district lines, which it must do after ever census, that is done during a special session called by the governor.

The Governor may be the state’s chief executive, But there are also checks on his power. There are a number of constraints on the governor’s formal leadership powers that have been intentionally imposed by the framers of the state’s numerous constitutions. As provided for by the laws of the state of Georgia, Governors are still prohibited from serving a third consecutive term. Ironically, in contrast, there is no limitation whatsoever placed on the terms of those serving in the legislative or judicial branches, or in other elected executive posts, or in the state bureaucracy. This means that because the governor cannot run for reelection and will only be in office for a short time, his political power is limited and members of the legislature are less likely to follow his lead.

Another known limitation on gubernatorial leadership is the fact that governors are not the only elected state executives. There are twelve elected officials, Candidates for these offices run their own campaigns with little or no coordination with the candidates for the governorship. They hold office by virtue of receiving their own mandates from the voters, and not by virtue of gubernatorial appointment. Moreover, not having limits on their terms of office, the other executives can expect to survive in office long after a particular governor has gone, lending credence to the “lame duck” principle which consistently hounds the Governor.

The mere fact that a governor’s appointee must be approved (or confirmed) by the State Senate before the appointees can take office is yet another limitation. Occasionally, the principle of legislative involvement is carried further: some boards and officials in the executive branch are appointed directly by the state legislature, and some legislative officers actually hold membership on certain executive policy-making boards.

A2.) In addition to the position of Governor, the constitution of Georgia provides for several constitutional officers who are the heads of executive departments and are elected directly by the voters for four-year terms. Currently, the list of constitutional officers includes the Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Commissioner of Insurance (formerly Comptroller General), Superintendent of Schools, Commissioner of Labor , and the Commissioner of Agriculture.

These officers, along with other heads of state departments, agencies, commissions, and boards, administer departments that directly address areas of importance to state government. The name of the agency generally indicates its work: the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Forestry Commission, Department of Transportation, or Department of Community Health.

There are more than twenty-five major departments in the executive branch and hundreds of smaller agencies, boards, and commissions. Commissioner of Agriculture. A majority of executive departments are headed by policy-making boards, whose members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Usually in cooperation with the Governor, the boards appoint a department director or commissioner to administer agency affairs. A few department heads are appointed directly by the Governor.

B.) Legislative Branch

The Legislative Branch in the state of Georgia is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Members of both houses are elected for two-year terms with no limit on the number of consecutive terms that may be served. The Georgia Constitution requires legislators to be U.S. citizens, Georgia citizens for at least two years, and legal residents of their districts for at least one year. The only difference in qualifications between the two chambers is that senators must be at least twenty-five years of age and representatives only twenty-one.

The house has 180 members, who elect their presiding officer, the Speaker. The senate has fifty-six members, and the lieutenant governor serves as its presiding officer. In that capacity the lieutenant governor is styled as the president of the senate. The General Assembly meets for a forty-day period each year, beginning on the second Monday in January. Because the legislative term is a biennium (a two-year period), legislation that is introduced in the first year after an election can be carried over to the second year. At the end of the second year, all legislation not passed dies and must be reintroduced in the next biennium.

Presiding over the House of Representatives is the Speaker, a member of that body elected every two years by the membership. In the Senate, the Lieutenant Governor as president of the Senate serves as presiding officer. Both offices have a number of formal powers, including the appointment of committee members, the assignment of bills to committee and the recognition of members who want to speak on the chamber floor. At the heart of the legislature is its committee system, where most study and consideration of legislation occurs. Before a bill can come up for a vote before the full body, a committee must have studied the bill and reported it out of committee with a recommendation.

The General Assembly meets each year, beginning the second Monday in January, for the legislative session; a typical session lasts until mid-March. During the session the legislature has the responsibility of enacting new laws, amending existing ones, or eliminating unnecessary ones. Additionally, one of the important functions of the legislature is to annually enact a budget for the state, termed a general appropriation act, which sets the level of funding for all programs in state government

The House of Representatives and Senate operate with similar powers, except that appropriation bills must originate in the House, while confirmation of the Governor’s appointments rests with the Senate. The concurrence of both bodies is necessary before any bill may become a law. The duties and functions of the state legislature are quite numerous and broad. Traditionally, the primary function has been to enact statutory law, While this function is traditional, it is still a constantly growing and developing one. Aside from this primary function the Bicameral committee has three other important function.

One of these functions would be what we term as legislative oversight of the various executive branch agencies. That is, the Assembly can investigate the actions of state agencies to assess the efficiency, effectiveness, and honesty of their performance. If dissatisfied with an agency’s performance, the Assembly can through legislation change the agency’s programs and authority and can reduce its budget.

Another function which the Senate has would be to confirm nearly all of the governor’s appointees to those executive branch boards, bureaus, and commissions. The Assembly also has power to appoint directly the state auditor and the members of the State Transportation Board. Lastly, the Georgia House of Representatives also has the power to bring formal charges of misconduct to a state official. In order for this to work, the official in question must be tried and found guilty by the Senate.

C.) Judicial Branch

The third branch of Georgia’s government is composed of approximately 1000 courts that are empowered to interpret and apply state law to resolve conflicts. These courts, are political bodies and are involved in conflicts, engaged in compromise, allocate values, and determine who gets what, when and how. In this regard, the courts are no different than the legislative and executive branches. What makes the judiciary different from the other branches is the procedures the courts use in policy-making.

Under the 1982 constitution, there are now seven classes of courts in Georgia: the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, Superior Courts, State Courts, Juvenile Courts, Probate Courts, and Magistrate Courts. Except for the Probate court, each of the classes now has uniform jurisdiction. Overall, the said courts fall under three categories now known as (1) Courts of Limited Jurisdiction,(2) the Trial Court, and (3) the appellate court. The Judicial Branch in the state of Georgia, as mentioned earlier is composed of ascending levels of courts. The levels of court and their functions are explained as follows:

C1.) Courts of Limited Jurisdiction

Courts of Limited Jurisdiction are courts that is responsible for handling less serious cases. In this category are: (1) the magistrate courts, which are courts responsible for issuing search warrants, trying violations of county ordinances and hearing civil suits under $15,000; (2) probate courts, which probate wills, administer estates and in some counties handle traffic cases; (3) state courts of counties, which hear civil cases and misdemeanor criminal cases and (4) juvenile courts, which hear cases involving youths under seventeen.

Every county in Georgia must have a Probate court, which is given a grab-bag of functions. The duties of Probate court judges include handling wills and estates of deceased persons, disposing of some traffic violations, issuing marriage licenses, supervising elections, and committing people to mental hospitals. Probate judges are elected to four-year terms and, except in counties over 100,000 population, are not required to be lawyers.

C2.) The Trial Court

The basic trial court, also known as the superior court is a court awarded with general jurisdiction for hearing cases involving state law and is considered the superior court. Here, any civil or criminal case may be tried. Unless the defendant requests that the judge alone try the case, a jury is used to reach a verdict. The legislature has divided Georgia into forty-eight superior court circuits, with each circuit containing from one to eight counties and served by one or more judges. Superior court must meet at least twice a year within each county of a circuit. Each county has its own superior court, although its judge may be shared with other counties in the circuit.

C3.) The Appellate Court

Georgia’s two major courts of appellate jurisdiction are known as the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. These courts, generally, do not try cases, but hear appeals from lower courts. The Court of Appeals has twelve judges and can hear any appeal from a trial court, unless the Constitution has specifically directed that the matter be heard by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court consists of seven justices who make up the state’s highest appellate body. Any appeal involving the constitutionality of any law, interpretation of the U.S. or Georgia Constitution and election matters must be heard by this court.

The Supreme Court is authorized to establish uniform rules of practice and procedure for each class so that the actual handling of cases — kinds of evidence, permissible motions, requirements for decisions, and so on — will be standardized. Selection procedures have also been changed by the new constitution. Now four of the classes–Supreme, Appeals, Superior, and State–are chosen in non-partisan elections, where candidates will not be listed as Democrats or Republicans. The other three classes continue to have partisan elections.

Additionally, the high court may hear appeals in other matters, such as capital felonies, divorce and alimony, and cases in which the Court of Appeals has requested ruling. Also elected in the Superior court circuit is a District Attorney, who serves as the state’s representative (the prosecution) in criminal cases. The DA presents evidence of criminal conduct to a Grand Jury (“grand” means large, having 18 to 23 persons) which may issue indictments, or formal accusations.

III. Conclusion

It is interesting to note that the State of Georgia’s political arena is composed of divisions which at first impression would seem largely tipped in favour of the titular head of state, but a closer scrutiny on the restrictions and powers of each branch reveals that a balanced structure of powers exists .

It should be noted and remembered that knowing the structure of Government of one’s state is manner of great importance since it is undeniable that it has a major impact on its citizens life as a whole, and would pretty much lead the citizenry to understand as to how and why politicians and their cotemporaries act the way they do. Lastly the knowledge imparted by knowing the metes and bounds of the responsibilities of these people occupying those important positions would make the citizenry aware of their rights as a citizen under the State which safeguards their personal interests.

Digby, M., Grant, C. THE GOVERNMENT OF GEORGIA. Georgia College & State University. Retrieved: August 20, 2007. edu/~cgrant/ POLS%201150/THE%20GOVERNMENT%20OF%20GEORGIA-2005.htm

The State of Georgia, Retrieved: August 20, 2007

The State of Georgia, Retrieved: August 20, 2007 – State Government, Retrieved: August 20, 2007,2094,4802_5021,00.html

Tindall, G. The State of Georgia, Collier’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, p 715