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The California Governor’s ‘Supreme Executive Power’

The Governor cannot refuse a law just because he or she does not like it or does not support it

By Chris Micheli, December 28, 2021 2:45 pm

Article V, Section 1 of the California Constitution provides: “The supreme executive power of this State is vested in the Governor. The Governor shall see that the law is faithfully executed.” What is the “supreme executive power”? The term “supreme executive” refers to a person with the ultimate responsibility for the state’s administrative decisions.

The U.S. Presidency has a unified executive. Alexander Hamilton advocated for a single president who is vested with the executive power of the country. In the U.S. Constitution, the power of the country’s chief executive is contained in Article II. California, on the other hand, has a divided executive because the executive branch in this state is comprised of nine constitutional offices.

While the state Constitution broadly grants executive authority to the Governor, the courts in this state have imposed some limitation. For example, the California Supreme Court, explained that the broad language of the constitutional provision stating that the supreme executive power of California is vested in the Governor and that the Governor shall see that the law is faithfully executed does not, by itself, authorize the Governor to impose unpaid furloughs on state employees through an executive order in the face of a fiscal emergency. Professional Engineers in California Government v. Schwarzenegger (2010) 50 Cal.4th 989

What does it mean that the Governor “shall see that the law is faithfully executed”? This provision is similar to the federal Constitution. Article II, Section 3 specifies that the President “take Care that the Laws by faithfully executed.” This section is called the “Take Care Clause” and it has been interpreted that the President must enforced all enacted laws of Congress.

This is also the case at the state level. This provision imposes a duty on the Governor to ensure that the state’s laws are enforced. The Governor cannot refuse a law just because he or she does not like it or does not support it. As a result, the duty to faithfully execute the laws is the power and responsibility of the Governor to see that the laws are carried out as intended.

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10 thoughts on “The California Governor’s ‘Supreme Executive Power’

  1. If this is the case why can’t he be forced to carry out the execution of death row inmates? Instead he’s opening the doors and letting them out. Total failure of leadership, can’t wait to see him gone!

  2. Unless there is an equal and oppositional branch(s), the Governor’s power is unlimited – as shown recently.
    In a balanced system, the Assembly and Senate would be questioning and limiting the current Governor, but since they are all working on the same page, it falls apart.
    The joys of a one party state.

    1. Fortunately, we are not the one party here that we seem to be. Whether you believe this or not, CA is actually a red state. The 2020 election’s impressive scrutiny using watermarked ballots with GPS tracking, proved this, and the obvious support of Elder in the recent recall make this clear. The court challenges were not heard, even at the US Supreme Court level. If you ever want absolute proof of political corruption in our nation, look into the proofs (not publicized in MSM and even when shown online, hacking was attempted. Two billionaires paid for independent and verified studies of the election) that the national election was falsified.

      1. Susan,
        I completely agree. The Gruesome recall election was a complete sham. I think the successful Gray-out Davis recall and election of Schwarzenegger was the motivating factor in setting up an election system in which they’ll never lose again.

      2. You are a moron. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but CA is very much blue and has been for decades. Get off the dark web.

        1. The Bluer California gets the worse it gets. Vote RED a Ext election and kick the golden spoon, liberals out of office before they completely destroy California

  3. Remember prop 187 (Save Our State) which the governor refused to defend? The current disastrous state of affairs can be directly traced back to that illegal and unconstitutional act.

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