Comparison between Florida and Maryland’s Legislative Frameworks

Words: 2760
Topic: Politics & Government
Updated:

Introduction

The US constitution acknowledges 50 states, which are regarded as entities independent from the federal government. Each of the states has its constitution, which is different from the others, implying that none of the states is identical to any other. However, as much as the states are different from each other in terms of their legislations, their legislative frameworks resemble that of the federal government.

Each state has three arms of government, namely, the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary (Hasen 67). Additionally, each state is organized based on the presidential systems headed by an elected governor. However, although the structure of the various states tends to resemble that of the central government, they (states) are at liberty to vary the structure to reflect the citizens’ needs by amending the constitution.

This provision creates differences in the structure of the states’ governments. Such differences manifest in many areas, which include elections, budgeting, the composition of the judiciary and legislature, and governance terms among others.

This paper investigates the differences in legislative frameworks between the states of Florida and Maryland. Some of the areas to be investigated include the states’ arms of government, elections, history and achievements, and lawmaker responsibilities among others.

Comparison between Florida and Maryland

Arms of Government

The criminal integrity framework denotes the set of organizations and procedures that are developed by countries or states to address transgression and/or demand fines on individuals who contravene any regulation.

It is crucial to note that America does not have a solitary criminal justice framework and hence the reason why Maryland and Florida may demonstrate differences and similarities in their arms of governance. However, it has several frameworks that depend on the respective states’ provisions. The states’ authority determines the mode of operation for each criminal justice framework.

One of the similarities between Florida and Maryland centers on the administrative arms of the governments of each state. Both states have three legislative arms, which include the executive, judiciary, and the legislature. The executive in both states is made up of the governor, the deputy governor (DG), and a cabinet (Hasen 53).

The governor is the top-most official of the executive branch of the government. On the other hand, the DG assists the governor in performing tasks. However, the DG’s role is limited to the duties assigned by the governor. Besides, the executive arm of the government is also made up of the cabinet, which is composed of state officials who work hand in hand with the governor to enforce the executive policies.

The described structure is common in both states. Hence, the two states have many things in common. The legislature in both states is made of the lower and the upper houses, both of which are tasked with the responsibility of formulating the states’ legislations (Wawro and Schickler 54). Lastly, the judiciary in both states is composed of courts of different jurisdictions, which are responsible for interpreting the law enacted by the legislature.

For both states, governors who are the commanders-in-chief and the heads of their respective states serve for a maximum of two consecutive terms. Each term runs for four years. In other words, a governor in either state can only serve for a maximum period of 8 years (Smith 39).

After a governor is elected, he or she serves for a period of four years after which an election is held. If a governor is reelected, he or she is expected to serve for another four years. In the case of an unsuccessful bid for reelection, he or she cannot vie for the gubernatorial seat in the future. Additionally, the constitution of the two states requires that if a serving governor dies, the lieutenant governor should take over until another election is held.

Elections

One of the key areas of comparison between Florida and Maryland centers on elections. The two countries have many similarities and differences regarding their election process. One of the similarities between the two states concerns the procedure for electing the governor and other elected leaders.

For both states, eligible citizens elect all the governors, deputy governors, and the members of both houses in a general election (Mason and Stephenson 78). In each state, special boards conduct elections. Te bodies ensure that the elections are credible and that they are conducted based on the law.

However, in as much as the voting in both states is somehow similar, some differences tend to manifest in diverse ways. The first difference in the election process for the two states centers on the timing of the elections. In Florida, elections are held on the first Tuesday of November after every four years. If an election year coincides with the year of the presidential elections, the date has to be adjusted.

For Maryland, the voting day is usually the second Tuesday of April during the electioneering year (Mason and Stephenson 79). Different from Florida’s elections laws, which do not allow early voting, Maryland’s election system allows the eligible voters to cast their votes, days before the official voting day.

History and Achievements

Florida’s election laws have evolved over time, with the two houses enacting or amending the current legislations based on any identified gaps. Until the 19th century, only the Whites aged above 21 years would vote in general elections (Smith 87). Women and the non-Whites were not allowed to vote in any of the elections. This situation was against their rights.

Following criticisms from various lobby groups, the state’s lawmakers enacted legislations allowing women aged above 21 years to vote. This provision led to the growth of the number of eligible voters. It was seen as a strategy for promoting democracy.

In 1944, the Supreme Court ordered Florida’s government to allow non-Whites to vote, a situation that prompted the legislators to amend the election laws to make voting by the non-Whites possible (Mason and Stephenson 112). Today, all the eligible citizens are allowed to vote in the general elections. On the other hand, for Maryland, the major achievement the state has made revolves around the introduction of new voting systems.

In 2014, the state introduced a new voter-verifiable paper record voting system, which replaced the traditional touch screen voting method. The new system is said to be superior to the traditional one since it allows the election board to verify and countercheck the accuracy of the votes. The method increases the credibility of the elections. Additionally, it allows people with disabilities to cast their votes during the early voting periods.

Lawmaker Responsibilities

Another area of comparison involves the responsibilities bestowed to the lawmakers. In both states, two houses are responsible for enacting the relevant legislations for the individual states. Both houses not only enact legislations but also have the power to amend such clauses to fit the needs of the nation (Lynch et al. 13).

They also take part in the formulation of treaties with other states within the US. Such treaties define the relationship between the two states and other regions in the country. However, the legislations passed by the two houses must align with the constitutions of each state.

Otherwise, they will be nullified. Hence, the constitution is superior to other legislations. Religion and other pressure groups in the country largely shape the policing process by mobilizing members of the two houses to enact laws that are in the best interest of the individual states.

Lawmaker Composition

Another area of comparison for the two states regards the composition of the legislature. Lawmakers in the two states have numerous similarities and differences, which are worth mentioning when comparing the situation in both countries. One of the key similarities is that each state has two legislatures, the Upper House and the Lower House.

The two houses work together to formulate the policies for each state. However, in as much as the houses are similar to one another, their composition is very different in each state. In Florida, the lower house is made up of 120 members who are elected during a general election. The elected members can serve for a maximum of four, 2-year terms after which they cannot vie for the same post again (Mason and Stephenson 56).

On the other hand, Florida’s senate is composed of 40 representatives who are equally elected by the citizens during a general election. Different from the members of the Lower House who serve for a maximum of four, 2-year terms, the members of the Upper House serve for a maximum of two, 2-year terms. Filibusters are allowed for both houses, hence implying that members are at liberty to cause the speakers to adjourn the discussions for a bill to a later date.

In contrast, the composition of the two houses of Maryland is very different from that of Florida. While the lower house of Florida is composed of 120 legislators, the Maryland one is composed of 141 members who serve for a period of 4 years with an unlimited number of terms. This situation is in contrast with Florida’s Lower House, which has only 120 representatives (Hasen 63).

The differences in the composition of the houses of the two states are not limited to the Lower House since the Upper Houses of the two states have significant differences. Different from Florida’s Upper House, which is composed of 40 members, Maryland’s Upper House is composed of 47 elected members.

Additionally, as opposed to the members of Florida’s Upper House who can only serve for a limit of four, 2-year terms, members of Maryland’s Upper House serve for unlimited terms. Another point of contrast is that filibusters in Florida are a common practice for both houses. In Maryland, they (filibusters) are not allowed. Here, members must discuss the bills to conclusion once they are presented on the floor of the houses (Wawro and Schickler 76).

Judicial Appointments

The other area of comparison between the two countries is the judiciary. Although the two states have judicial systems, which are comprised of courts with different jurisdictions, their composition and processes of hiring judges differ significantly. In Florida, the highest court is the Florida Supreme Court, which is comprised of judges appointed through the Modified Missouri Plan.

The stated plan refers to an arrangement in which a special commission is created and tasked with the responsibility of nominating judges. The committee nominates between 3 and 6 qualified judges based on merit. The list is submitted to the governor who officially appoints judges to serve in different courts in the state.

The governor must appoint the judges from the list presented by the commission. Any appointment outside the list is invalid. The nomination of the judges by a committee is informed by the view that the judiciary would be more independent if the governor does not appoint the judges.

On the contrary, the highest court in Maryland State is the Court of Appeal, which has the jurisdiction to hear any appeals from the lower courts. As opposed to Florida’s judges who are nominated by a special commission, the governor directly appoints Maryland’s court judges without consulting anyone.

The appointment of the judges by the governor has attracted criticisms, with skeptics of the stated appointment methodology saying that the plan compromises the independence of the judiciary. The view is informed by the fact that the governor’s appointees must favor the executive to return the act of kindness. Therefore, Florida’s judicial system may be regarded as more independent compared to that of Maryland.

Other than the process of appointment, the two countries compare in terms of the length of time a sitting judge can serve. In Florida, a judge can only serve a maximum of six years after which he or she either retire or seek re-election. A judge who is below the age of 70 years is eligible for reelection through the assisted appointment plan.

However, those who attain the age of 70 must retire at the end of their current terms to pave way for the appointment of new judges. In other words, judges can only serve if they are not older than 70 years (Hasen 42). In Maryland, judges serve for a maximum period of 7 years after which they are reappointed by the governor or dismissed altogether.

Just like in Florida, judges in Maryland can only be reappointed if they do not exceed 70 years, which is the maximum retirement age. Additionally, judges who attain the age of 70 years while still serving the Maryland courts are forcefully retired, as opposed to waiting until their term expires as witnessed in the case of Florida.

Criminal Justice Processes

The criminal justice systems are similar in both states. Suspects in each state have similar rights. Just like in Florida where a suspect is entitled to representation by a lawyer of his or her choice, the supposed criminal in Maryland is equally entitled to the right of attorney (Smith 43).

Under both systems, a suspect has the right to choose his or her lawyer. Private lawyers who are paid by the client are allowed in both systems. Suspects without the financial capacity to hire a lawyer are entitled to a public lawyer upon request. The government provides the public lawyers. The same government settles any costs incurred in procuring a lawyer.

Another similarity is that under the two systems, the constitution is the supreme law. Other controversial laws that do not align with the constitution are deemed null and void. Besides, the legislative bodies in both countries enact legislations, which must be made into law by the governor (Lynch et al. 24).

Pressure groups have a great influence on the formulation and amendment of legislations under both systems. The pressure groups include human rights activists, the media, and other non-governmental organizations that seek to protect citizens’ interests.

In both states, if the court finds the suspect guilty upon the termination of the criminal proceedings, he or she is sent to one of the correction institutions available in the concerned state. The states have a myriad of correctional institutions, which are either federal or state-managed. The correctional facilities host large numbers of prisoners annually.

The jails host criminals and suspects awaiting trial who have been denied bail and/or are unable to raise the amount. However, the conditions of Maryland’s prisons are not impressive. Prisoners are subject to mistreatments by fellow inmates and guards. Overcrowding is a common phenomenon. It is attributed to the denial of cash bails to suspects.

Other challenges that characterize the Maryland’s prisons include mistreatments and bullying by peers, poor sanitation, and inadequate recreational facilities among others. The listed challenges are not evident in Florida’s prisons.

However, despite the mentioned challenges, Maryland’s prisoners enjoy certain rights that are not common in Florida. For example, inmates are allowed to bring their families and/or enjoy conjugal rights with their civilian partners during the visits.

The availability of cash bail is another area of difference between the two systems. Under Florida’s criminal system, suspects have the right to be released on bail. Either personal recognizance or cash bail provided the defendant can raise the amount asked by the courts (Lynch et al. 19).

In Maryland, suspects are only entitled to release on cash bail and not personal recognizance. This case is a major point of difference between the two states regarding the criminal justice system.

Conclusion

The US is made up of 50 states, which have state governments that are different from each other. The states have their governments that are different from the federal constitution. In this regard, each state has its legislations, which are different from those of the federal government.

To understand the similarities and differences in the legislative frameworks of the 50 states, this paper has compared the governance structures for two states, Florida and Maryland. The comparison has revealed many similarities and differences between the two states, hence confirming the hypothesis that the states are run differently depending on their respective constitutions.

One of the major similarities, which the paper has identified, centers on the arms of the governments. Both states have three major arms, which are the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive. The executive is made up of the governor, the deputy governor, and the cabinet.

This trio works together to facilitate the smooth running of the government. On the other hand, the legislature is composed of elected lawmakers who are responsible for enacting legislations. Differences in the governments of the two states manifest inside the three arms of government. The terms, which the office holders serve, are a major point of difference between the governance in the two states.

Works Cited

Hasen, Richard. The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown. Yale University Press, 2012.

Lynch, Michael, et al. “Procedural Uncertainty, the Parliamentarian, and Questions of Order in the United States Senate.” Parliamentarian.

Mason, Alpheus, and Grier Stephenson. American Constitutional Law: Introductory Essays and Selected Cases. Routledge, 2015.

Smith, Steven. The Senate Syndrome: The Evolution of Procedural Warfare in the Modern US Senate. University of Oklahoma Press, 2014.

Wawro, Gregory, and Eric Schickler. Filibuster: Obstruction and Lawmaking in the US Senate. Princeton University Press, 2013.