Florida State Legislature

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Florida State Legislature

Seal of Florida.svg.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   2 terms (8 years) in Senate, 4 terms (8 years) in House
2015 session start:   March 3, 2015
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Andy Gardiner (R)
House Speaker:  Steve Crisafulli (R)
Majority Leader:   Bill Galvano (R) (Senate),
Dana Young (R) (House)
Minority Leader:   Arthenia Joyner (D) (Senate),
Mark Pafford (D) (House)
Members:  40 (Senate), 120 (House)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Art I, Section 1, Florida Constitution
Salary:   $29,687/year + per diem
Last Election:  November 4, 2014
20 seats (Senate)
120 seats (House)
Next election:  November 8, 2016
20 seats (Senate)
120 seats (House)
Redistricting:  Florida Legislature has control
The Florida State Legislature is the state legislature of Florida. The Florida Constitution mandates a bicameral state legislature with an upper house, the Florida State Senate, and a lower house, the Florida House of Representatives. Due to term limits, House members may be elected for up to four terms (eight years), while State Senators can be elected for up to two terms (eight years).

The two houses convene within the Florida State Capitol complex in Tallahassee.

The Florida Legislature is a part-time body, meeting only 60 day regular sessions annually with the possibility of special sessions as needed. Outside of these regular sessions, the members of both houses participate in hearings, town hall meetings and legislative discussions throughout the year.

As of April 2015, Florida is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas.

See also: Florida House of Representatives, Florida State Senate, Florida Governor


Article III of the Florida Constitution establishes when the Legislature is to be in session. Section 3 of Article III states that the regular session of the Legislature is to convene on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March of each year. Regular sessions of the Legislature are not to exceed sixty days, unless extended by a three-fifths vote of each house.

Section 3 also allows for the convening of special sessions, either by the proclamation of the governor of Florida or as otherwise provided by law.


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the Legislature is in session from March 3 through May 1.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2015 legislative session include Gov. Rick Scott's (R) proposed $77 billion annual budget, water quality and the use of testing to evaluate students across the state.[1]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from March 3 through May 5.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2014 legislative session included creating a new budget using an $850 million surplus, a package of $500 million in tax cuts called for by the governor, Common Core and Medicaid expansion.[2]

The legislature approved several bills, including legislation that would provide "stand your grand" immunity for people that fire warning shots, the legalization of non-euphoric medical marijuana, and allowing students born to undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition rates at state universities and colleges.[3]

On May 2, 2014, legislators approved a $77 billion state budget which increased spending on schools, child welfare and the cleanup of damaged water bodies. The budget included a 5 percent raise for state law-enforcement officers and an increase for some working in the judiciary. Critics of the budget argued that the budget should have included raises for a much larger portion of state workers.[4][5]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from March 5 to May 3.


Major issues during the 2013 legislative session included ethics and election reforms, gambling laws, Medicaid, sales tax and unmanned drone use by law enforcement.[6][7]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was in session from January 10 through March 9.


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the Legislature was in session from March 8 through May 6.

Session highlights

In 2011, the legislature reduced government spending and avoided raising taxes. Spending was reduced by $1 billion from the previous year, and $4 billion less than in 2006. Florida also removed 14,000 businesses from corporate tax income rolls. Areas that spending was cut included education and social programs. The legislature removed funding from a veteran's homeless support group, reduced payments to social workers by 15 percent, and spent $2.5 billion less on education than the previous year.[8]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Legislature was in session from March 2nd to April 30th.

Role in state budget

See also: Florida state budget and finances

The state operates on an annual budget cycle.[9] The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[10]

  1. In July of the year preceding the start of the new fiscal year, the governor sends budget instructions to state agencies.
  2. In October agencies submit their budget requests to the governor.
  3. Budget hearings are held with state agencies in September.
  4. Public hearings are held in both September and January.
  5. In February the governor submits his or her proposed budget to the state legislature.
  6. The legislature adopts a budget in April or May, effective for the fiscal year beginning in July. A simple majority is required to pass a budget.

The governor is constitutionally and statutorily required to submit a balanced budget to the legislature. In turn, the legislature must pass a balanced budget, and any budget signed into law by the governor must be balanced.[10]

Florida is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[10]

Florida budgets three major funds: the General fund, the Major Special Revenue Fund and the Special Revenue Fund. Both the Major Special Revenue Fund and the Special Revenue Fund are comprised of lesser funds. The Major Special Revenue Fund is composed of three lesser funds, and the Special Revenue Fund is composed of about 19 to 20 lesser funds.[11]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Florida was one of the 10 states that used cost-benefit analysis more than the rest of the states with respect to determining return on investment regarding state programs. In addition, these states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis with respect to large budget areas and when making policy decisions.[12]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[13] According to the report, Florida received a grade of A- and a numerical score of 92.5, indicating that Florida was "leading" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[13]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Florida was given a grade of C in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[14]


See also: Redistricting in Florida

The Florida Legislature is responsible for redistricting. For state legislative redistricting, the legislature must first pass a joint resolution, which is then sent to the state Supreme Court for review. If it is accepted, the plan becomes law. If it is not, the legislature holds a 15 day session to approve a new plan. If the second plan does not pass the Court or if the legislature fails to approve a new plan during the 15 days, the Court has 60 days to design their own plan.[15]

2010 census

Florida received its 2010 local census data on March 16, 2011. The state population increased by 2.8 million residents, or 17.6 percent.[16] Going into redistricting, it was clear that Amendment 5, passed by voters in 2010, was going to have a major impact on the process. Amendment 5 established that legislative district boundaries had to be drawn in such ways that they establish "fairness," are "as equal in population as feasible" and use "city, county and geographical boundaries."[17]

The Senate and House redistricting committees introduced draft maps for their respective chambers in early December 2011.[18] The maps for both chambers were easily passed by early February and then moved on to the state Supreme Court for approval. On March 10, the Florida Supreme Court issued a 234-page decision rejecting the state’s new Senate maps, while upholding the new state House districts and providing extensive interpretation of the state's 2010 redistricting reform amendment. The Court found eight districts unconstitutional and also ruled that district numbers had been assigned as to favor particular incumbents over others.[19]

The Legislature went back to work on the map, modifying 24 districts. The plan was then sent back to the Court, who approved it on April 27. Three days later it was approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.[20]

Role in the Legislature

Main article: Florida state budget

By the end of February each year, the Legislature of Florida receives an annual budget proposal from the Governor. The annual budget proposal is for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1st. The Legislature then revises this budget over the course of the next couple of months. In April or May, the Legislature votes on a budget. For a budget to pass, a majority of legislatures must vote in support of it[21]

Recently, Florida's Legislature has passed unbalanced budgets. As a result of this, Florida's Director of the Office of Policy and Budget, Jerry L. McDaniel, had to send out a memorandum on October 12, 2009 to the executives of state agencies, advising them of an anticipated $2.6 billion shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year 2010 budget.[22]



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Florida legislature are paid $29,687 per year. Legislators are allowed $131 per day for per diem, tied to the federal rate. Travel vouchers are required.[23]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Florida legislators assume office two weeks following their election.


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




The Florida Senate is the upper house of the Florida State Legislature. There are 40 members in the senate. Generally, Senators in odd-numbered districts are elected in years divisible by four (in tandem with U.S. Presidential elections), and Senators in even-numbered districts are elected alongside elections for Florida's statewide offices. In years ending in the digit 2, all Senators are up for re-election. Thus, odd-number district Senators were elected to two-year terms in 2002, and even-number district Senators will be elected to two-year terms in 2012. Each member represents an average of 470,033 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[24] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 399,559.[25]

Florida Senate districts are both organized by population over geographic areas. Although there are exactly three times as many members of the House (120) as in the Senate (40), the Senate districts do not consist of three Representative districts; the boundaries are independent.

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 14
     Republican Party 26
Total 40

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Florida State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Florida State Senate.PNG

House of Representatives

The Florida House of Representatives is the lower house of the Florida State Legislature. It is composed of 120 members, each representing a district. Each member represents an average of 156,678 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[26] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 133,186.[27]

Representatives are elected to two-year terms during even-numbered years. A representative 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. Once elected, representatives are limited to four terms.

The entire Florida Legislature meets every year in a session beginning on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March and lasting 60 calendar days. Special sessions may be called either by the Governor or by the leaders of both chambers acting jointly.

The Speaker of the House is elected by the representatives for a two-year term. The Speaker has the power to preside over the chamber during a session, to appoint committee members and chairs of committees, to influence the placement of bills on the calendar, and to rule on procedural motions. The Speaker pro tempore presides if the Speaker leaves the Chair or if there is a vacancy.

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 39
     Republican Party 81
Total 120

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Florida State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Florida State House.PNG


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Florida
Partisan breakdown of the Florida legislature from 1992-2013

Florida State Senate: From 1992-2013, the Republican Party was the majority in the Florida State Senate for the last 19 years while the Democrats were the majority for one year. The Florida State Senate is one of 13 state senates that was Republican for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. During the final three years of the study, Florida was under Republican trifectas.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Florida State House of Representatives: From 1992-2013, the Republican Party was the majority in the Florida State House of Representatives for the last 17 years while the Democrats were the majority for five years. During the final three years of the study, Florida was under Republican trifectas.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Florida, the Florida State Senate and the Florida House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Florida state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

To read the full report on the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) in PDF form, click here.

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Florida state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. During the years studied, Florida achieved place in the top-10 in only one year (2007). The state had one Democratic trifecta in 1992, while it has had a Republican trifecta for a total of fourteen years. Florida’s most precipitous drop in the SQLI ranking occurred between 2007 and 2008, when the state dropped from 8th to 19th. Florida also experienced a significant drop in the ranking between 2009 and 2010.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 29.00
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 19.00
  • SQLI average with divided government: 29.71
Chart displaying the partisanship of Florida government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

Joint committees

See also: Public policy in Florida

See also

External links


  1. Fort Myers News-Press, "SWFL front and center come 2015 legislative session," January 28, 2015
  2. gainesville.com, "Big issues loom in next legislative session," September 22, 2013
  3. Tampa Bay Times, "Florida Legislature 2014: What passed and what failed," May 3, 2014
  4. news-press.com, "State workers forgotten again in Florida budget," May 3, 2014
  5. bradenton.com, "Fla. legislators reach deal on spending items," April 28, 2014(Archived)
  6. Yahoo.com, "Florida legislature passes bill restricting drone use," April 17, 2013(Archived)
  7. boardroombrief.com, "Florida Legislature – 2013 session overview," May 17, 2013
  8. Stateline.org, "States balance budgets with cuts, not taxes," June 15, 2011(Archived)
  9. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  11. State Budget Solutions, "Florida: Background," accessed April 15, 2014
  12. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  14. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  15. Rose Report, "Florida Redistricting: The Complete Analysis," February 22, 2010(Archived)
  16. Naples News, "Florida picks up 2 congressional seats, 2010 Census shows," December 21, 2010
  17. The Daily Loaf, "Fair Districts Florida makes it on 2010 ballot," January 22, 2010
  18. Orlando Sentinel, "Check out the Legislature’s redistricting handiwork," December 6, 2011
  19. WJHJ, "Florida Supreme Court Justices Reject Senate Redistricting Plan," March 9, 2012
  20. Orlando Sentinel, "State congressional, legislative districts approved by Justice Department," April 30, 2012
  21. National Association of State Budget Offices, 2008 Budget Processes in the States (dead link)
  22. Jerry L. McDaniel, Director Office of Policy & Budget Memorandum, “FY 2010-2011 Legislative Budget Requests,” October 12, 2009 (dead link)
  23. NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  24. U.S. Census Bureau, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed January 6, 2014
  25. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001
  26. U.S. Census Bureau, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed January 6, 2014
  27. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001