Florida Legislature

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Florida Legislature
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type Bicameral
Houses Senate
House of Representatives
Leadership
President of the Senate Don Gaetz, Republican
Since November 20, 2012
Speaker of the House Will Weatherford,
Republican
Since November 20, 2012
Structure
Seats 160
Senate political groups Democratic Party: 14
Republican Party: 26
House political groups Democratic Party: 46
Republican Party: 74
Authority Article III, Florida Constitution
Elections
Senate last election November 6, 2012
House last election November 6, 2012
Senate next election November 8, 2014
House next election November 8, 2014
Motto
In God We Trust
Meeting place
Tallahassee Old and New Capitols 3.jpg
Florida Capitol, Tallahassee
Website
www.leg.state.fl.us/

The Florida Legislature is the two houses that act as the state legislature of the U.S. state of Florida. The Florida Constitution states that "The legislative power of the state shall be vested in a legislature of the State of Florida," composed of a Senate and House of Representatives.1 The legislature is seated at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee.

Composed of 160 state legislators term-limited to eight years, the state legislature meets beginning in March for a period not to exceed 60 calendar days. Special sessions are called as needed.

Powers and process

Chamber of the Florida Senate

The Florida Legislature is authorized by the Florida Constitution to create and amend the laws of the U.S. state of Florida, subject to the governor's power to veto legislation. To do so, legislators propose legislation in the forms of bills drafted by a nonpartisan, professional staff.2 Successful legislation must undergo committee review, three readings on the floor of each house, with appropriate voting majorities, as required, and either be signed into law by the governor or enacted through a veto override approved by two-thirds of the membership of each legislative house.2

The Legislature also has the power to propose amendments to the Florida Constitution. The rules for the Florida Legislature are laid out within the Constitution of Florida, and is also prescribed the respective chambers when applicable. Florida has had a total of six different state constitutions, signed in 1838, 1861 (secession), 1865, 1868, 1885, and 1968 (the current Florida Constitution).

In 2009, legislators filed 2,138 bills for consideration. On average, the Legislature has passed about 300 bills into law annually.3

Earmarks that have not gone through the normal legislative process are known colloquially as "turkeys." In 2010, Florida TaxWatch, a government watchdog organization counted 41 "turkeys" totaling $61 million.4

Organization

Membership

The Florida Constitution mandates a bicameral state legislature with an upper house Florida Senate of no more than 40 members and a lower Florida House of Representatives of no more than 120 members.1 A legislator of either house must be at least 21 years of age, a resident of the district in which he or she will serve, and a resident of Florida for at least two years before being qualified to run for election.

Due to term limits, state representatives may be elected for up to four terms (eight years), while state senators can be elected for up to two terms (eight years). Former members can be elected again after a two year break.

Both chambers have been under Republican control since 1996.

Leadership

The House is headed by the Speaker, while the Senate is headed by the President. The House Speaker and Senate President control the assignment of committees and leadership positions, along with control of the agenda in their chambers. The two leaders, along with the Governor of Florida, control most of the agenda of state business in Florida.

Sessions

The Florida Legislature operates on a regular legislative session starting on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March 5 for a period not to exceed 60 calendar days. Special sessions are called as needed by the Governor.

Legislators start activity in September of the prior year, before the official session. This is to promote their bills through committee in time for the official session.6

Every ten years (1982, 1992, 2002, 2012, etc.), following the dicennial census, the Legislature provides, by law, for the 60-day regular session to begin early, typically in January.7

History

In 2013, the legislature filed about 2000 bills. About 1000 of these are "member bills." The remainder are bills by committees responsible for certain functions, such as budget.6

See also

References

  1. ^ a b The Florida Constitution
  2. ^ a b Senate Handbook, 2012-2014, Florida Senate (accessed April 28, 2013)
  3. ^ Flemming, Paul (March 8, 2009). Capital Ideas: Lawmakers face 2,138 proposals. Florida Today. 
  4. ^ Schweers, Jeff (27 May 2010). "Supporters object after group calls parkway project a 'turkey'". Melbourne, Florida: Florida Today. pp. 1B. 
  5. ^ Prior to 1991, the regular legislative session began in April. Senate Joint Resolution 380 (1989) proposed to the voters a constitutional amendment (approved November 1990) that shifted the starting date of regular session from April to February. Subsequently, Senate Joint Resolution 2606 (1994) proposed to the voters a constitutional amendment (approved November 1994) shifting the start date to March, where it remains. The reason for the "first Tuesday after the first Monday" requirement stems back to the time when session began in April. Session could start any day form April 2nd through April 8th, but never on April 1 -- April Fool's Day.
  6. ^ a b Dockery, Paula (January 18, 2014). "Editorial:Advice to Legislature:Pursue limited agenda". Florida Today (Melbourne, Florida). pp. 11A. Retrieved January 18, 2014. 
  7. ^ Article III, Section 3(b), Florida Constitution, provides that the regular session shall convene on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March in odd-numbered years and on that day or such other day as is fixed by law in even-numbered years.

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