With campaign season and the election over, the state capital is readying for what insiders call “The Process”: The 60-day regular legislative session, which kicks off March 7 with the State of the State speech by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Before that, of course, comes a smattering of committee weeks, when lawmakers start considering bills. There are seven committee weeks in all, starting next month and ending in late February.
And before that, legislators will get together Tuesday in a constitutionally mandated “organization session.” As the official site of the Florida Legislature explains, it’s held 14 days after the election, when “members are sworn in, officers are elected, rules are adopted, and the committee appointment process is begun.”
That’s when House Speaker-designate Paul Renner of Palm Coast and Senate President-designate Kathleen Passidomo of Naples get to lose the “designate” from their titles. Their leadership lasts two years; both are expected to deliver speeches to explain their vision over the next two sessions.
Passidomo announced her leadership team, including conservative stalwart Dennis Baxley of Ocala as president pro tempore, Ben Albritton of Wauchula as majority leader and Doug Broxson of Gulf Breeze as the chamber’s state budget chief, heading its Appropriations Committee.
In the House, Renner so far has said his lieutenants will be Michael Grant of Port Charlotte as majority leader and Chuck Clemons of Newberry as speaker pro tempore for the next two years. Grant also served as majority leader the past two years under outgoing Speaker Chris Sprowls.
Republicans in both chambers now enjoy supermajorities, enabling them with nearly unbridled power, including overriding a governor’s veto. Their numbers are 85 Republicans to 35 Democrats in the House, and 28 Republicans to 12 Democrats in the Senate.
As Florida Politics highlighted last week, with a two-thirds vote the GOP can, for example:
– Pass exemptions to the Sunshine Law, such as shutting off access to certain public records or otherwise open meetings.
– Get rid of the need to “read” a bill on three separate days before passing it, or immediately add a bill to the calendar for consideration the same day.
– Limit debate on a bill and even waive the rules themselves.
The House on Friday released its list of proposed committees and subcommittees for next year and the rules for 2022-24, including a provision that drops “the requirement for appropriations projects to be filed as a bill, so they will no longer need to be heard in committee,” Renner said in a memo.
“However, all other appropriations project request requirements will remain in place to keep the process transparent and accountable, including the requirement that requests be posted online and accompanied by a sworn attestation from the entity for whom the request was submitted.”
Before the organization session, Senate Democrats will meet at 1 p.m. today to make Sen. Lauren Book of Davie the Democratic leader for 2022-24.
Then House Democrats will convene at 6:30 p.m., also in the Capitol, to confirm state Rep. Fentrice Driskell of Tampa as their caucus leader. She “is Florida’s first Black woman elected to lead either party in the Florida House of Representatives,” a House Democratic caucus statement said.
Lawmakers are still waiting to hear when a special legislative session called by DeSantis will be held. It’s likely to happen during one of the committee weeks in December, however.
The special session is expected to include providing property-tax relief to people affected by Hurricane Ian and addressing property-insurance issues. It will be the third special session this year.
And DeSantis last week hinted there could be even more special sessions, suggesting at an appearance at Fort Walton Beach “one or two in January, February potentially.”
“I think we’re going to have a very robust agenda. And I think people will be very pleased with the additional points we’re able to put on the board,” he added, though he didn’t mention any details.