Like most U.S. states, Florida  has three branches of government: an executive branch headed by the governor, a judicial branch headed by the Florida Supreme Court, which has seven justices on the bench, and a legislative branch consisting of the 120-seat House of Representatives and the 40-seat Senate. The state government does most of its business while the legislature is in session, which is for one 60-day period beginning in March; often, though, special sessions are called in order to complete unfinished business.
On the local level, there are 67 counties and 379 municipalities in the state.
As anyone who watched the 2000 presidential election recount can attest, Florida is somewhat schizophrenic politically. In geographic terms, the vast majority of Florida is Republican; it is up for debate whether this is due to the constant inflow of retirees or the fact that the state has way more cowboys and good ol’ boys than most people think. Still, the more densely populated areas even the scales somewhat. With younger populations and culturally diverse immigrants, Florida’s cities tend to be less conservative. Thus cities in South Florida are dependably Democrat, while Orlando  and Tampa  are more evenly split; beyond those enclaves, the rest of the state tends to vote Republican.
To many people’s surprise, Florida  has an extensive history as cattle-ranching territory. Most of the middle of the peninsula, from south of Orlando  to north of Lake Okeechobee, is given over to dairy and beef pastures. In fact, Florida’s cattle industry is one of the 20 largest in the U.S, although that ranking has been increasingly threatened as residential development encroaches on grazing lands.
Of course, the most famous product of Florida’s farms are its oranges and other citrus fruits, and groves spread out from below the frost line (which cuts through the state roughly around Orlando) all the way south to the Everglades . In and around the Everglades, sugar is the number-one crop, although the environmentally intensive methods used to harvest and process sugar cane have caused so much damage to local ecosystems that the state government has offered to buy out the U.S. Sugar conglomerate in hopes of rescuing the Glades.
Florida’s main industry—by an exponential factor—is tourism, which is estimated to bring in almost $60 billion a year. Agriculture is a close second, along with international trade due to the large number of deepwater ports and proximity to Central and South America. Technology is also a big part of Florida’s economic mix, although the $4.5 billion space industry is a substantial chunk of that. During years of real estate boom, the construction industry in Florida is one of the nation’s busiest; when the economy contracts, it still plays a big role in the state’s economy.
Florida  is a defiantly middle-class state; with personal income of around $36,000 per capita, the state is ranked 20th in the United States. Like many of its Southern neighbors, it’s also a defiantly antilabor state. There wasn’t a minimum wage in Florida until 2004, and the state is considered a “right-to-work” state, meaning employment can be terminated at any point for any reason, which in turn means that collective bargaining and union membership is all but irrelevant. There is no personal income tax in Florida, homeowners receive a “homestead exemption” on their personal property tax bill, and food and medicines are exempt from an already low 6 percent sales tax. This has been one of the primary economic drivers in attracting the state’s large population of retirees, as they can relocate from the industrial high-tax north and live out their days paying relatively little in taxes.
Throughout the state there are pockets of extreme poverty and pockets of extreme wealth, and in South Florida one can find the two extremes butting up against one another as a road through one glamorous neighborhood may soon lead you to a bombed-out community. Generally speaking, though, the Panhandle and Northern Florida have the lowest income levels, and as you move south toward Miami , you’ll find increasing levels of wealth as well as increasing levels of income disparity.