By Thomas Nussbaum and Chris Micheli
Of interest to those involved in the legislative process, we can learn important points from understanding the role of the chief executive at the federal and state levels and his or her role in enacting legislation at both levels of government. The value in looking at the two chief executives is to better understand the role of the executive branch in the lawmaking process.
Fundamentally, both the U.S. President and the California Governor draw their authority from the federal and state constitutions concerning their respective roles in the lawmaking process. Federal and state statutes also provide additional duties and responsibilities for the chief executives in the adoption of laws. Their respective roles are similar regarding the legislative and budget processes, even if some of the specifics differ. Appreciating these similarities and differences will help observers better understand the role of the chief executive.
The executive branches of the state and federal governments play similar roles, but they also have different aspects, as we briefly discuss below. Obviously, the Governor and executive branch of state government are based upon their federal counterparts. In broad terms, both federal and state chief executives are involved in the lawmaking process in that they propose and ultimately sign budgets, they sign or veto legislation, and they make appointments of executive branch employees who interpret and administer the laws.
Both the President and the Governor make major policy addresses to their respective legislative bodies (e.g., the State of the State speech each January by the Governor and the State of the Union speech each January by the President) that establish the priorities of the chief executives. With these speeches, the President and Governor outline their major policy initiatives for the upcoming legislative term, as well as their major budget priorities. As a result, these speeches help direct legislators by understanding the wishes of the chief executive.
One difference is that the Governor can call the Legislature into extraordinary session to address specific issues, such as a natural disaster, a budget crisis, or some other high profile public policy issue. However, no such authority rests with the President. Because the Governor can call legislators into special session, this is a clear way for the Governor to prioritize an issue and help dictate the ultimate outcome of the legislation needed to address that policy issue.
The President and Governor propose their respective budgets for the operation of the federal and state governments, which are reviewed and modified by the legislative branch. The Governor (through the Department of Finance – DOF) actively participates in the Legislature’s review and adoption of the State Budget by providing details and analysis of the Governor’s budget priorities. Similarly, the President (through the Office of Management and Budget – OMB) attempts to persuade the Congress to adopt his or her budget proposals by working interactively with both houses of Congress to advance the President’s spending priorities.
California law gives the Governor significant authority to reduce or control expenditures, especially with respect to the executive branch of government. More important, the State