McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli







Today’s post and podcast is an overview of California’s executive branch of government. Today’s post will be broken into two sections, the provisions for the executive branch in California’s state constitution and the levels of executive branch government in California.

Constitutional Provisions

The executive branch of California state government is set forth in Article V of our state constitution, and of course, like its federal counterpart, is one of three branches of state government. The following is an abbreviated list of the key provisions that affect the Governor and his or her administration.

  • Section 1 vests the executive power in the Governor and his or her administration.
  • Section 2 states the Governor is elected every four years, that he or she must be a U.S. citizen, and that that must have been a California resident for the past five years.
  • Section 3 requires the Governor to report on the condition of the state to the Legislature.
  • Section 5 allows the Governor to fill a constitutional office vacancy by appointment, however that appointment is subject to confirmation by a majority vote of both the Assembly and State Senate.
  • Section 10 provides that the Lieutenant Governor will become Governor when a vacancy occurs, during an impeachment, when the Governor is out of the state, or when the Governor has a temporary disability.
Levels of Executive Government

There are essentially three levels to the executive branch in California’s state government. The first level is what political scientists refer to as plural executives. These refer to the nine constitutional offices, including the Governor, that are elected statewide by the state’s electorate every four years.

The next level below that are the so-called independent agencies. These are the entities that even though they may have appointees by the Governor, they serve independently from direct influence by the chief executive. A good example would be the University of California and its Board of Regents. The Regents serve twelve-year terms, with a Governor only able to serve a maximum of two, four-year terms for a total of eight years. A Regent’s term survives that of the appointing entity to ensure that they have independence from the appointing authority.

The third level of state government are what are called line agencies, and they draw that name from the line that begins with the box of the Governor on the state organization chart, and goes down to the state agencies that go down to the departments. Essentially, line agencies report directly to the Governor.

There are essentially four types of line agency: agencies, departments, some boards, and commissions. Agencies occupy the highest level in the state government and the executive branch. Under state agencies are numerous departments. Like agencies, the leadership of departments are all appointed by the Governor. Boards and commissions are usually headed by an executive officer or an appointed board and they usually report to a particular department.

You can find a full transcript of today’s podcast here.