Arenas of Change

Where does the struggle for progressive change—and ultimately, progressive governance—actually occur? In this section, we describe six decision-making arenas—the target areas for organizing efforts to push, pass, and protect progressive policies and systemic change. These include the electoral, legislative, judicial, administrative, communications, and corporate arenas. Together these define the broad terrain where ideas, policies, and power are contested. This tool poses questions that identify rules, structures, and systems in each arena. While we have not yet identified metrics to answer every question, the metrics below help us start to uderstand the opportunities for, and roadblocks to, progressive governance in different states.

Electoral Arena - Florida

The electoral arena is where voters are the final decision makers: They shape policy indirectly through electing representatives or directly through ballot initiatives.

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Ease of Voter Registration and Voting

How accessible is registration in the state? What is the availability of early voting, online voting, and vote-by-mail? Does the state have voter ID laws, and how strict are they? How long do voters have to wait at the polls before they can cast their ballots.

Voting Wait Time

39 Minutes

Voters in Florida waited an average of 39 minutes during the 2012 presidential election. Florida is ranked 48th lowest in terms of wait times at the polls.

Absentee Voting

Absentee, no excuse

Voters in Florida may vote as an absentee without providing an excuse.

Early Voting


Voters in Florida may vote early (before election day).

Voter ID Laws

Non-strict voter ID laws

Florida has less-strict voter ID laws, that have some flexibility.

Fairness of Electoral Laws

To what degree does the state enfranchise voters, particularly immigrants (through integration efforts) and formerly incarcerated (through state law)?

State Felon Disenfranchisement Rate


10.42% of eligible voters in Florida are disenfranchised due to the state's laws banning those with felony convictions from voting. Florida is ranked 1st in terms of the highest percent of eligible voters disenfranchised due to felony convictions.

Availability of Public Campaign Financing

Does the state provide public campaign financing to level the playing field for candidates?

Public Campaign Financing

Partial Statewide

The State of Florida offers partial (matching) public campaign financing for select statewide or legislative offices.

Existence of Ballot Initiatives

Does the state allow ballot initiatives? If so, how easy (or not) is it to get an initiative on the ballot? What form do they take (i.e., constitutional amendments, statutes, or referenda)?

Statutory Ballot
Initiative Process


Voters in Florida have no mechanism for introducing statutory ballot innitiatives.

Constitutional Ballot
Initiatives Process


Voters in Florida utilize indirect methods to introduce state constitutional ballot initiatives, meaning proposals that qualify go directly on the ballot.

Popular Referendum Process


Voters in Florida may not utilize Popular Referendum—a process by which voters may petition to demand a popular vote on a new law passed by the legislature.

Fairness of Re-Districting

Who draws legislative district boundaries (e.g., elected representatives or committees of non-elected, non-partisan experts)? How gerrymandered is the state?

Gerrymandering Index


Lower scores represent less compact districts indicating that they are more gerrymandered. Florida is ranked 26th among states with the most potential gerrymandering, based on this metric.

Redistricting Process


In Florida, state legislatures are responsible for congressional and state legislative redistricting.

Availability of Public Campaign Financing

Does the state provide public campaign financing to level the playing field for candidates?

Florida has the following limits on contributions to state campaigns by various bodies:

Contributor Limit
Individuals Some Limits
State Party Some Limits
PACs Some Limits
Corporations Some Limits
Unions Some Limits

Legislative Arena - Florida

The legislative arena is where elected officials and policy makers are the decision makers as they propose, craft , and approve (or disapprove) laws.

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Level and Authenticity of Community Engagement

Does the state mandate public participation in legislative decision-making processes? How authentic are these processes and to what extent to legislators' decisions reflect their constituents' opinions? Does the state have mechanisms for direct democracy like participatory budgeting?

Accountability Score


Florida was scored a 77 by the Center for Public Integrity. This score is like a "grade"—higher numbers indicate lower risk of corruption among legislators, based on a range of legislative accountability standard practices. Florida is ranked 2nd highest in terms of accountability.

Equality of Political Representation


This metric measures how far the political leanings of a state's residents are from the actual policies passed in their state, and the relationship of this "proximity" to their income level. Larger positive values indicate greater political equality (i.e., people with lower incomes are better represented). Florida is tied for 25th in equality of political representation.

Participatory Budget?


Florida does not have any local governments that utilize participatory budgeting. (At present, no state level governments utilize participatory budgeting.)

Capacity and Professionalism of Legislators

How does the structure of the legislature (part-time vs. full-time) dictate the capacity of legislators to get things done? Do legislators have term limits? How are legislative offices staffed? What are state legislators' compensation? How does all this affect the types of candidates who run for office (e.g., career politicians, corporate representatives, independently wealthy people, or "everyday" people)?

Legislative Professionalism Index


Florida was scored at 0.229 in Squire's (2007) legislative professionalism index. Greater values indicate more professional-level salary and benefits, time demands of service, staff and resources for members of each state's legislature. Florida is ranked 14th in terms of legislative professionalism.

Strictness in Lobbying Rules

Does the state regulate lobbyists in terms of transparency and ethics? For instance, are state legislators required to disclose gifts from lobbyists? To what extent do lobbyists and legislators follow state regulations?

Lobbying Disclosure Ranking


According to the Sunlight Foundation, Florida scored a -6 on the Lobbying Disclosure Scorecard. The Scorecard compares and ranks each state (from -6 to 6) in terms of their rules and practices regarding lobbying activity, the transparency and reporting of individual legislator expenditures, public accessibility of documents regarding lobbying, and lobbyist compensation. The higher the score, the more transparent a state's lobbying disclosure.

Structure of Legislature

Is the state legislature full-time, part-time, or a hybrid structure?

Type of Legislature

Full-time, Lite Staff/Pay

Legislators in Florida usually work 80% or more of a full-time job. They have moderately large staffs, but not as large as in some other states. They and are paid enough as to not require outside sources of income.

Legislative Session Length

2 months

The average legislative session in Florida is 2 months over a two-year period. Florida is ranked 46th in terms of the longest state legislative sessions.

Judicial Arena - Florida

The judicial arena is where decision makers are state-level courts and judges as they determine the legality of policies and practices.                           

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Method of Judicial Selection

Are state-level judges appointed or elected across high, appellate, and trial courts? Are there term limits?

Court Selection Type
State High Court Partisan Elections
Intermediate Appellate Court Partisan Elections
Trial Courts Uncontested Retention Elections After Initial Appointment

Fairness of Sentencing Laws

To what extent do people of color—particularly, Black and Latino men—disproportionately end up in court and get harsher punishments than their white counterparts? To what extent does this same group disproportionately make up the state's incarcerated population?

Incarceration Spending


Florida spends 3.6% of its budget on incarceration. Florida is tied for 5th in terms of incarceration spending.

Racial Disparities in Incarceration


The ratio to which Florida incarcerates Black individuals to white individuals is 4.4 to 1. Florida is tied for 39th in terms of the largest disparities in incarceration of Black to White individuals.

Enforcement of Ethics and Monitoring Money

Does the state have campaign spending limits in judicial elections? On what grounds do states require judges recuse themselves from cases, if at all? Do these recusal rules apply to campaign contributions?

Accountability Score


Lower Accountability Scores indicate higher risk of corruption. The score is an aggregate of information on ethics standards and practices for state courts, including state judge recusal processes, judge use of private/state assets, access to courts and transparency, judges documentation of reasonings for decisions, and other accountability measures. Florida is tied for 37th in terms of judicial accountability.

Public Financing?


Florida has no public campaign financing in state judicial elections or no judicial elections.

Accessibility of Courts to Consumers and Workers

What are the rules and resources around self-representation? What legal resources exist for low-income people, people with disabilities, and people who do not speak English?

Access to Justice Index


Higher value on the Access to Justice Index indicates greater access to justice. The index comprises four sets of indices of legal access measuring attorney access, language assistance, self-representation resources, and assistance for those with disabilities. Florida is ranked 7th in terms of public access to justice.

Judicial Diversity

How diverse is the judiciary? Are people of color sitting on the bench? Are women? How does the method of selection affect this?

Judicial Diversity Index


56% of Florida's judiciary is composed of people of color. This data includes state courts of last resort, appellate level courts, and trial courts of general jurisdiction, and takes into consideration methods of selection variables, and state population variables. Florida is ranked 2nd in terms of diversity of the judiciary, as measured by the percentage of judges who identify as persons of color.

Administrative Arena - Florida

The administrative arena is where executive officials and government staff are the decision makers. They oversee and implement laws and rules, coordinate regulatory bodies, and administer public participation processes.

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Enforcement of Ethics

What types of ethics enforcement rules exist to hinder corruption within government agencies? Are there bodies that audit and provide oversight of agencies? What structures exist to ensure public transparency in administrative decision-making processes?

Ethics Commission?


Florida has an ethics commission with oversight of local, non-elected officials.

Civil Service Management Score


Florida was scored a 50 on Civil Service Management by the Center for Public Integrity. This score is like a "grade": Higher numbers indicate lower risk of corruption among state's civil servants. The score aggregates and scores information on civil service management, including asset reporting of civil servants, disclosure of civil service records, protections for whistleblowers, and internal disclosure of corruption investigations. Florida is tied for 49th in terms of civi service management

Rule Making and Resource Allocation

To what extent does the governor have decision-making power over the state budget, legislative enactment, department and committee appointments, and other oversight measures? Under what circumstances can the governor use veto power, if at all? What more informal power and political weight does the governor hold?

Executive Accountability Score


Florida scored a 67 on executive accountability by the Center for Public Integrity. Higher numbers indicate lower risk of corruption among executive branch officials. The measure aggregates and scores information on judicial review of executive action, use of executive orders, asset/disclosure of executive and cabinet, and the existence and use of other measures to regulate the power of executive branch. Florida is ranked 16th in terms of executive branch accountability.

Public Transparency Grade


Florida scored a earning it a grade of A from U.S. PIRG in terms of public transparency. This grade is based on the amount of detailed information on state budgets available to the public.

Capacity and Resources of Agencies

Do agencies have adequate capacity and resources to achieve implementation of policies passed by the state legislature? What indicators and measures do government agencies utilize to guide decision making? To what extent do government departments and agencies collaborate? What structures exist to engage the public in decision- making processes?

Expenditure % of General Fund
K-12 38%
Higher Ed 13%
Medical 19%
Public Assistance 1%
Corrections 9%
Transport 0%
All Others 20%

Communications Arena - Florida

Communications as an arena of change is about the power to influence the values, worldviews, and understandings of the public at-large.           

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Diversity in Media Content and Ownership

Who owns the major media outlets in the state? What alternative (non-profit, non-corporate) media outlets exist? How much airtime do progressive organizations get in these outlets?

Nonprofit News Services


Florida has a total of 7 nonprofit news agencies with an editorial focus based in it. Florida is tied for 5th among states according to the total number of nonprofit news agencies.

Public Accessibility to Information

How many reporters cover statehouses and local politics? Do residents have affordable, broadband, and high-speed internet access? How does the state fare in terms of computer, internet, and social media literacy/use?

Statehouse Reporters


Florida has a total of 62 statehouse reporters, including full-time, session-only, part-time, students, and others. Florida is tied for 5th among states according to the total number of statehouse reporters.

Corporate Arena - Florida

The corporate arena is where business management and corporate stakeholders make decisions that directly affect workers and families.                                                                                                                                                                                

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Level of Regulation

What individual rules govern different sectors and industries? How are these regulations monitored and executed? How are these regulatory agencies funded? How does the public participate in shaping regulations? How do these align with or differ from national and regional/local regulations?

Tax Inequality Index


The Tax Inequality Index measures the effects of states' tax systems on income inequality. It rank states from the most regressive to the least regressive. Florida received a -9.5, meaning it is ranked 2nd amongst the most regressive states in the country

Presence and Influence of Unions and Unionized Employers

What is the state's private sector union density? What sectors are unions the strongest in, and what weight do these sectors have in the state's economy? What democratic practices exist in these unions? How are these unions tied to broader social and community movements?

Unionization Rate


In Florida 8.4% of total private and public sector workers are represented by unions. Florida is ranked 33rd in terms of percentage of workers represented by unions.