Policy Watch

All state governments are modeled after the federal government and consist of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. The head of the federal executive branch is the President of the United States who signs federal legislation into law.

The head of each state-level executive branch is the Governor of the State and signs state bills into law. Who is my Governor?

The judicial branch is the system of courts that interprets the laws written by the legislative branch. This blurb focuses on the differences between the federal and state legislatures, which are the governing bodies who write laws for the nation to follow (at the federal level) and the state to follow (at the state level).

Using Florida as an example, here’s a sense of the different structures of representation of federal and state legislatures:

Federal legislature

State legislature

U.S. Senate
2 Senators represent the entire state of Florida in D.C.

Serve for 6 years

1 Republican, 1 Democrat – 2018

Florida State Senate

40 State Senators represent FL residents of their districts at the state capitol building

Serve for 4 years
23 Republican, 15 Democrat, 2 vacancies – 2018

U.S. House
Florida Senate

27 Representatives represent Florida residents of their districts in D.C.

Serve for 2 years
16 Republican, 11 Democrat – 2018

Florida House of Representatives
Florida House of Representatives

120 State Representatives represent FL residents of their districts at the state capitol building

Serve for 2 years
76 Republican, 41 Democrat, 3 vacancies – 2018

All but one state, Nebraska, has a bicameral legislature, which means that the state legislature is made up of two chambers: a smaller upper chamber (the Senate) and a larger lower chamber (called the House of Representatives, the Assembly, or the House of Delegates). Check out the Florida State Legislature’s website to explore their governance structure and latest issues.

Most of us have more daily contact with our state and local governments than with the federal government because they are typically in charge of things like police departments, libraries, schools, and, everyone’s favorite, parking tickets. Fishing licenses and regulations are largely a state-level responsibility, along with raising state employee wages like that of some teachers and things like licenses and regulations surrounding your vehicle, like setting speed limits.

An interesting point to note is that in many states, being a legislator at the state level is not a full-time job. Being a national legislator, however, is a full-time salaried position.

Your representatives at the federal level would be who you would contact to help you with federal agency issues, like a problem with your Medicaid, an issue you need help with relating to the Department of Veterans Affairs, or issues with the timing in receiving your passport, for example. Many of our national legislators use to be state legislators – see who exactly here.

Although there is a general distinction between governing responsibilities of the federal government and state and local governments, there is plenty of overlap when it comes to funding, especially; a notable example for ASA’s membership being matching state and federal funds for Everglades restoration.

Under the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, all powers not granted to the federal government are reserved for the states and the people. Translated, this means that individual states can create legislation to fill in what they believe to be gaps or shortcomings in the laws that govern the country as those laws apply to their state. For example, it can mean that after the federal government passes a law, some states can choose to pass additional laws to set stricter regulations or standards that build upon that law; using the federal law as a baseline. States can also choose to pass laws to address issues that the federal government hasn’t weighed in on or decided for the entire country yet.

An example of a recently passed state law that addressed an issue that the federal government hasn’t decided for the entire country yet is the recent bill that passed the Florida state legislature and was signed into state law by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to address gun control. Instead of waiting for the U.S. Congress to pass a new gun control law for the entire country to follow, the state of Florida decided it would pioneer ahead and make a new law for residents of the state to follow. The validity of state laws that address controversial issues like gun control are many times challenged in court where their legality and interpretation are determined; the NRA has already challenged this new law by filing a lawsuit against the state of Florida.

ASA is a national trade association and primarily focuses on sportfishing industry policies that appear at the federal level – in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House. ASA also has a phenomenal state-focused Government Affairs team member in Florida, the ‘Fishing Capital of the World’, Kellie Ralston.

Kellie lives in Tallahassee, which allows her to be able to be present at important state- and regional-level sportfishing-policy-related events, as well as meet with federal representatives from the state of Florida. With complex policy issues, like Everglades Restoration, affecting one of the most important states for the sportfishing industry, having staff ‘on-the-ground’ is essential to elevate our voice and stay on top of important issues that pop up within the state legislature.

Although ASA is a national trade association, we do our best, with the help of our membership and coalition partners, to address state-level issues that would be detrimental to the sportfishing industry. For example, a recent bill in the California legislature seeks to ban lead fishing tackle state-wide. ASA hopes that as we grow as an association, we will be able to take on more state-level issues in areas of the U.S. that are important to the sportfishing industry.

Scott Gudes, vice president of Government Affairs at ASA has already spear-headed some efforts to address state-level issues in California, with the help of some of ASA’s West Coast Membership, our recreational fishing coalition partners in the region, and the assistance of expert lobbyist Mark Smith of California Environmental and Energy Consulting. See the blurb on California lead that appears later in this month’s Policy Watch for more details.

For more information, please contact Policy Fellow, Ashley Brinkman.