Role of the Executive Branch vs Legislative Branch
Elected State Officers
- What terms are served by state elected officers?
- How are vacancies for state elected officers filled?
Other Elected Executive Officers
- What are the duties of the Lieutenant Governor?
- What are the duties of the Secretary of State?
- What are the duties of the State Controller?
- What are the duties of the State Treasurer?
- What are the duties of the State Attorney General?
- What are the duties of the State Insurance Commissioner?
- What are the duties of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction?
The Board of Equalization
The Governor's Administrative Staff
Agencies and Departments
- What is the Office of Administrative Law (OAL)?
- What is the Office of Criminal Justice Planning (OCJP)?
- What is the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO)?
- What is the Office of Emergency Services (OES)?
- What is the Department of Personnel Administration (DPA)?
- What is the Office of Planning and Research (OPR)?
- What is the Military Department?
Role of the Executive Branch vs Legislative Branch
While the usual explanation of responsibilities of the branches of government is that the legislature makes the laws and the executive branch administers and enforces them, in practice the legislative and executive branches often work together on shaping proposed legislation. This is true partially because a plan is likely to come to fruition only with the cooperation and consent of both branches, but also because experience of the executive branch in implementing past legislation and coping with new problems provides legislators with information and ideas not available elsewhere.
Many program ideas originate within the agencies and departments of the executive branch. Though a final decision may be made by the department director, agency secretary, or the governor, staff usually prepare information and position papers, and in many cases the higher official need only approve or disapprove.
If legislation is required, procedures established by the governor's office are followed before the legislative counsel is requested to draft a bill or a legislator is asked to sponsor it. Any proposal which involves appropriation, federal funds, or future costs must be reviewed by the Department of Finance. In case of significant impacts the governor may confer with legislators, department heads, agency secretaries, and others while the proposal is being formulated.
On request, departments also aid legislators in preparation or review of proposed legislation. At a later stage administrators may furnish further information or testify before legislative committees.
Many laws are broadly drawn, delegating to the executive units the power and responsibility of working out details as needed through administrative decisions and regulations. In practice, implementation of new laws often requires additional or more specific legislation.
Elected State Officers
All elective officers in the executive branch serve four-year terms beginning the Monday after January 1 following their election. With the passage of Proposition 140 in 1990, all elective officers, except the Insurance Commissioner, are prohibited from serving more than two terms in the same office. All are subject to recall and impeachment
The constitution requires that a candidate for governor be a citizen of the United States, qualified to vote, and a resident of California for at least five years immediately preceding the election. Besides being the highest-ranking executive of the state, the governor is a legislative leader, the commander-in-chief of the state militia, an appointive power in the judicial system, the leader of his or her political party, and ceremonial head of state. In 1992, the annual salary for the governor was $120,000.
As chief executive, the governor has extensive financial control, broad powers of appointment, and authority over the entire organization and administration of the executive branch. The governor may propose to group, consolidate, or coordinate agencies and functions. A reorganization proposal has the effect of law 60 days after it is submitted to the legislature or at a date stipulated in the plan, unless either house takes negative action. At the governor's request, executive officers and agencies are required to report on their operations. With ready access to the public, the governor has extensive opportunity to focus attention on operations or proposals and to influence public opinion. Among other substantial subsidiary powers, the governor is president of the board of regents of the University of California and the board of trustees of the California State University.
As appointing authority, the governor has the power to make about 2,000 appointments, including almost all state department heads and officials in key policy-making positions, except for constitutional officers. The governor also appoints several hundred members of boards and commissions. In addition, the governor fills unexpired terms of U.S. senators, supervisors in general law counties, and state- wide officers when these positions have become vacant through resignation, removal, or death.
A governor can appoint lawyers to fill judicial vacancies at the municipal and superior court level as he or she desires. For the court of appeals and supreme court, gubernatorial nominees must be confirmed by the Commission on judicial Appointments and subsequently by the electorate at the first regular election thereafter. Since judges may remain in place for years after a governor has left office, these appointments can influence state policy well beyond the term of the appointing executive.
While gubernatorial powers of appointment are significant in shaping state government, in comparison with other states California limits the governor's patronage both in number of positions to be filled and in the practice of making certain appointments. Some restrictions are imposed by law on the governor's powers. A majority vote of both the state Senate and the Assembly is required to approve special gubernatorial appointments to fill vacancies among the constitutional officers. About 170 other appointments require confirmation by the state Senate. Then too, composition of boards may be stipulated in law- for instance, the number of professionals from the field and the number of public representatives. Removal powers are also limited.
Constitutional and statutory law fix the terms of office of some department heads and of many boards and commissions. Terms may be staggered so that a governor cannot appoint a majority of a board, and sometimes terms of appointees are prescribed to be longer than the governor's own term. However, most department heads, the governor's staff, and members of the cabinet serve at the governor's pleasure.
As legislative leader, the governor advises the legislature at the beginning of each legislative session as to the condition of the state, recommends legislation, and confers regularly with representatives of the Senate and the Assembly. The governor's office prepares and submits to the legislature the annual state budget covering expenditures for every branch of state government. After legislative adjustment of the budget, the governor may reduce or eliminate particular items by veto, but may not raise them.
The governor may also veto bills passed by the legislature, and the threat of veto may influence legislation (although recent governors have vetoed only about seven percent of all bills passed). The gubernatorial veto is difficult to override, requiring a two-thirds vote in each house; since 1946 only seven attempts to override a governor's veto have succeeded.
The governor may also call a special session of the legislature to consider a specific issue such as a fiscal crisis.
As commander-in-Chief of the state militia (California National Guard), the governor may call the guard to active duty on his own initiative or on request of local officials in the event of civil disturbance or emergency, including natural disaster.
The governor influences the judicial system, by nominating judges to the two highest courts of the state and filling vacancies by appointment in all except justice courts. The governor also has the power to pardon, reprieve, and commute sentences except in cases of impeachment. These clemency powers have few restraints, but the governor's reasons for clemency actions must be reported to the legislature.
As leader of a political party, the governor draws strength from party support and exercises influence over party policies and nominations.
As ceremonial head of state, the governor performs such duties as ribbon-cutting at public openings and appearing at parades and other celebrations. Though these may seem relatively trivial and time- consuming functions, they can be used by a governor to help build citizen morale and shape public opinion.
Other Elected Executive Officers
The lieutenant governor assumes the office of chief executive when the governor is absent from the state or is temporarily or permanently unable to discharge the duties of the office. The lieutenant governor is presiding officer of the Senate and may cast a tie-breaking vote on legislation. He or she may represent the governor as chief of state or be designated to perform executive tasks, The lieutenant governor chairs the Commission on Economic Development and also serves ex- officio on certain boards and commissions such as the State Lands Commission, the board of regents of the University of California, and the board of trustees of the California State University. In 1992, the annual salary for the lieutenant governor was $90,000.
The secretary of state is the state's chief elections officer and records keeper. The secretary certifies the nomination and election of candidates; checks for the proper number of signatures for initiative, referendum, and recall petitions; prints the state ballot pamphlets; compiles reports of registration and official statements of the vote; rues campaign disclosure and lobbyist financial reports; and enforces elections laws uniformly statewide.
Other major duties of the secretary include the filings of articles of incorporation, limited partnerships, and related corporate documents; registration trademarks; registration of deeds to state lands; filing uniform commercial code division documents such as liens against personal property, tax liens, and judgements; and commissioning of notaries public.
The secretary is also responsible for the California State Archives, which collects, catalogs, indexes and preserves historically valuable papers and artifacts from state government. The secretary maintains the records of acts of the legislature and of the executive branch, and also files all administrative regulations.
As keeper of the state seal, the secretary impresses the seal on gubernatorial papers. In 1992, the annual salary for the secretary of state was $90,000.
The state controller is the chief fiscal officer of the state, accounting for and disbursing state money. As the state's accountant and bookkeeper, the controller reports on the financial operations of state and local governments, and requires uniform accounting procedures. The controller's office collects some taxes directly and provides audit resources to ensure that others are collected.
This office also administers the state's personnel payroll system and unclaimed property laws, under which it searches for the rightful owners of money and property turned over to the state. The controller chairs the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS) , State Teachers' Retirement System (STRS), the Franchise Tax Board, and the State Lands Commission. The con troller is a member of more than 60 boards, commissions, and financing authorities; among them are the Board of Equalization and the Board of Control. In 1992, the annual salary for the controller was $90,000.
The state treasurer is banker for the state, paying out state funds when authorized by the controller. The treasurer is also custodian of securities and other valuables deposited with the treasury, seller of state bonds, and investment officer for most state funds. The treasurer's office examines the financial soundness of major debt proposals of certain special districts. The treasurer chairs the Commission on State Finance and serves on several boards, most of which supervise the marketing of bonds. In 1992, the annual salary for the treasurer was $90,000.
The attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer of the state, with the obligation to see that laws are uniformly and adequately enforced. As legal adviser, the attorney general interprets laws and renders opinions for the governor, the legislature, state agencies, and some local officials. The attorney general is director of the Department of justice which represents the state and its officers in civil litigation and in appeals from superior courts in criminal cases; enforces the state narcotics laws; maintains central fingerprint and other files; administers the state's program of training for local law enforcement officers; and assists peace officers in both criminal and civil investigations.
The attorney general has supervision over all district attorneys and sheriffs and may act in the place of any district attorney if necessary. The attorney general has power to convene a county grand jury to bring matters to its attention. The attorney general's office prepares titles for state initiative and referendum petitions, and titles and digests for all state ballot measures.
With a staff of more than 600 lawyers, the attorney general maintains offices in Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles. In 1992, the annual salary for the attorney general was $102,000.
The insurance commissioner became an elected position in 1988. The commissioner is responsible for protecting California's insurance consumers. The commissioner regulates the state's $63 billion-a-year insurance industry, and manages the 835-person Department of Insurance. A special fund agency, the department is supported by insurance fees and receives no taxpayer money. The commissioner enforces the laws of the California Insurance Code and adopts regulations to implement the laws. The department provides information to consumers on insurance rates, complaints against companies and enforcement actions taken against individuals and companies. In 1992, the annual salary for the insurance commissioner was $95,052.
The superintendent of public instruction is elected statewide on a nonpartisan basis. The superintendent directs the Department of Education, executing policies set by the state Board of Education appointed by the governor. In 1992, the annual salary for the superintendent of public instruction was $95,052.
The Board of Equalization
The Board of Equalization, one of California's major state revenue agencies, consists of four members elected from equalization districts representing areas of the state nearly equal in population, and the state controller, who serves ex-officio. The board ensures that property throughout the state is assessed uniformly, by guiding and assisting county assessors and prescribing regulations. The board itself assesses the property of railroads and public utilities; administers the retail sales and use taxes; the cigarette, motor fuel, and alcoholic beverage taxes; state taxes on insurance companies; the timber yield tax; the electrical energy surcharge; and the emergency telephone users surcharge. The board is the appellate body for Franchise Tax Board decisions on income and corporate taxes and on property tax relief for senior citizens. In 1992, the annual salary for a member of the Board of Equalization was $95,052.
The Governor's Administrative Staff
The operation of the governor's office varies with each governor, who decides how he or she wishes to manage liaison with departments, the legislature, and the public. In 1992, there were 86 positions in the governor's office, ranging from senior staff to clerical assistance. These staff members are organized into units that assist with particular aspects of executive responsibility.
A major assistant to the governor is the Chief of Staff, who directs and supervises all units in the governor's office, serves as chief aide, and member of the cabinet. Other important assistants include the administrative officer, press secretary, cabinet secretary, legislative secretary, appointments secretary (responsible for maintaining data on upcoming vacancies and potential appointees), and writing and research director.
As the governor's principal advisory and operational council, the cabinet gives the chief executive a comprehensive view of state operations and aids in policy making and long-range planning. The governor determines the composition of the cabinet, and its members serve at his or her pleasure, playing a major or minor role in policy making as the chief executive wishes. As of January 1992, members of the cabinet were the agency secretaries of Child Development and Education, Environmental Protection; directors of the Departments of Finance, Food and Agriculture, and Industrial Relations; and the governor's chief of staff. Elected officials, various staff members, and other officials may attend cabinet meetings when matters relating to their areas of responsibility are discussed.
Agencies and Departments
To assist the governor in supervising the voluminous activities of state government and maintaining consistency in executive policies, most departments are grouped within "agencies." The secretaries of the agencies provide leadership and policy guidance to the departments in their jurisdictions, serve as communication links between the governor and the departments, and review department budgets and legislative and administrative programs.
In 1992, there were seven agencies: business, transportation, and housing; child development and education; health and welfare; resources; environmental protection; state and consumer services; and, youth and adult corrections. Figure 6.1 displays the organization of the executive branch. Each department director supervises operations of the divisions in his department and is responsible for their fiscal, administrative, and program performance. The chart does not show the complexity of many of the individual departments, which may include a dozen or more divisions or units. The director reports to the appropriate agency secretary, if any, who is responsible for coordination of related programs, for resolution of problems that go beyond the authority of the department heads, and for overall policy implementation. All communications to the cabinet go through the agency secretary, though frequently the secretary requests a department head attend a cabinet meeting to present information or a position paper. The governor also sometimes holds briefing meetings with department heads.
The Office of Administrative Law protects the public from overregulation and illegal enforcement of unauthorized regulations by reviewing actions on rules proposed by state agencies. More than 130 agencies make regulations which implement or interpret statutes enacted by the legislature. OAL disapproves any regulation that does not meet specific criteria as stated in the Administrative Procedure Act. These criteria specify, among other points, that regulations must be necessary, understandable, and consistent with other laws. OAL encourages and assists individuals who wish to participate in the state's process for ensuring that agency regulations do not create unnecessary red tape.
The Office of Criminal Justice Planning implements the governor's public safety plan for California. The office awards federal and state grants to state and local agencies for programs relating to criminal justice and crime prevention and control. OCJP supports criminal justice agencies, local victim/witness organizations, school and community crime prevention programs, and training programs for prosecutors and public defenders. It conducts research, crime analysis, and program evaluation, and develops publications on crime prevention and victim services.
The Department of Economic opportunity administers programs to assist low-income residents in becoming self-sufficient. The department now supervises several federally funded programs, including community services block grants, low-income home energy assistance, and weatherization projects. Services are provided directly and through a network of about 200 community agencies.
The Office of Emergency Services maintains a 24-hour disaster warning system and a statewide emergency plan, and helps local jurisdictions develop compatible plans. In addition, the agency distributes federal and state disaster aid funds. OES coordinates mutual aid agreements among state and local fire, rescue, and law enforcement agencies, and maintains a state nuclear power plant emergency response plan. The office has developed a program which uses the state's 24-hour warning system to alert appropriate agencies in emergencies involving toxic or hazardous substances.
The Department of Personnel Administration manages the non-merit aspects of the state's personnel system. While the state Personnel Board administers the state's merit program, the DPA represents the governor as the "employer" in all matters concerning state employer/ employee relations. The DPA, in conjunction with departments, reviews existing terms and conditions of civil service employment subject to negotiation, develops management's negotiating positions, represents management in discussions with the 20 employee bargaining units in state government, and administers negotiated memoranda of understanding.
DPA is responsible for administration of the state's job classification plan and for development of personnel management programs and policies pertaining to pay and benefits. The department also provides centralized employee training programs.
The Office of Planning and Research serves as the comprehensive state planning policy agency, as planning and research staff to the governor and cabinet, and as a primary liaison with local governments and education. In addition, OPR has statutory responsibilities relating to permit assistance and to environmental and federal project review procedures. The office also administers the California energy extension service, which provides staff outreach and public information programs.
The Military Department also reports directly to the office of the governor. It is composed of the offices of the adjutant general, the California Army and Air National Guard (the state militia), the state military reserve, and the naval militia. The department assists state and local authorities in protecting lives and property during natural disasters or civil or other emergencies, and provides military units for federal mobilization in time of national emergency.
The military department also provides training and job counseling at four centers for unemployed youth in Los Angeles, Modesto, Oakland, and Sacramento, to prepare them for job placement with enlistment in the national guard as an option. In cooperation with the state Department of Education and with local school boards, the department administers the California Cadet Corps, which trains young people in citizenship and leadership programs.