Florida State Senate
|Florida State Senate|
|Term limits:||2 terms (8 years)|
|2014 session start:||March 5, 2013|
|Website:||Official Senate Page|
|Senate President:||Don Gaetz, (R)|
|Majority Leader:||Lizbeth Benacquisto, (R)|
|Minority leader:||Christopher Smith, (D)|
| Democratic Party (
|Length of term:||4 years|
|Authority:||Art I, Section 1, Florida Constitution|
|Salary:||$29,697/year + per diem|
|Last Election:||November 6, 2012 (40 seats)|
|Next election:||November 4, 2014 (20 seats)|
|Redistricting:||Florida Legislature has control|
- 1 Sessions
- 2 Ethics and transparency
- 3 Elections
- 4 Redistricting
- 5 Senators
- 6 Standing Senate Committees
- 7 History
- 8 External links
- 9 References
As of March 2014, Florida is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas.
Article III of the Florida Constitution establishes when the Florida State Legislature, of which the Senate is a part, 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 2014 state legislative sessions
In 2014, the Legislature is projected to be in session from March 4 through May 2.
- See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions
In 2013, the Legislature was in session from March 5 through May 3.
- See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions
In 2012, the Senate was in session from January 10 through March 9.
In a rebuke to the Republican leaders of the Florida State Senate, nine GOP senators joined Democrats in voting against a plan to create private prisons that was a high priority of Senate President Mike Haridopolos. The plan, which aimed to replace a similar one struck down last year for being unconstitutional, would have been the largest privatization of prisons in the country. It was voted down 21-19.
- See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions
In 2011, the Senate was in session from March 8 through May 6.
In 2011, the legislature reduced government spending and avoided raising taxes. Spending will be reduced by $1 billion from last year, and $4 billion less than in 2006. Florida also removed 14,000 businesses from corporate tax income rolls. Areas that spending was cut include education and social programs. The legislature removed funding from a veteran's homeless support group, reduced payments to social workers by 15 percent, and will spend $2.5 billion less on education than last year. 
- See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions
In 2010, the Senate was in session from March 2nd to April 30th.
Ethics and transparency
Open States Transparency
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 is 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.
- See also: Florida State Senate elections, 2012
Elections for the office of Florida State Senate were held in Florida on November 6, 2012. A total of 40 seats were up for election. Although Florida senators typically serve four-year terms, they are elected to a two-year term during the first election of the decade. Thus, rather than only half of all senators being up for election, all sitting members were on the ballot in 2012. The signature filing deadline for the 2012 elections was May 7 and the primary date was August 14.
Florida state senators are subject to term limits and may serve no more than two four-year terms. In 2012, 10 state senators were termed-out.
This chamber was mentioned in a November 2012 Pew Center on the States article that addressed supermajorities at stake in the 2012 election. Supermajority generally means a party controls two-thirds of all seats. While it varies from state to state, being in this position gives a party much greater power. Going into the election, Republicans in the Florida Senate held a supermajority, which Democrats looked to cut into.
The following table details the 10 districts with the smallest margin of victory in the November 6 general election.
|2012 Margin of Victory, Florida State Senate|
|District||Winner||Margin of Victory||Total Votes||Top Opponent|
|District 34||Maria Sachs||5.7%||231,759||Ellyn Bogdanoff|
|District 24||Tom Lee||8.1%||194,041||Elizabeth Belcher|
|District 13||Andy Gardiner||10.8%||211,936||Christopher Charles Pennington|
|District 10||David Simmons||11%||212,272||Leo Cruz|
|District 8||Dorothy Hukill||14.1%||203,236||Frank Bruno, Jr.|
|District 25||Joseph Abruzzo||14.3%||218,224||Melanie Peterson|
|District 21||Denise Grimsley||14.8%||186,636||Stacy Anderson McCland|
|District 7||Rob Bradley||15.4%||213,546||William Mazzota|
|District 20||Jack Latvala||15.7%||221,223||Ashley M. Rhodes-Courter|
|District 15||Kelli Stargel||16.9%||193,660||Stego Blue|
- See also: Florida State Senate elections, 2010
The signature-filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in these elections was April 30, 2010, and the primary election day was August 24, 2010.
The partisan breakdown of the House before and after the election was as follows:
|Florida State Senate|
|Party||As of November 1, 2010||After the 2010 Election|
In 2010, the total amount of campaign contributions raised in senate elections was $14,617,863. The top 10 contributors were: 
|2010 Donors, Florida State Senate|
|Domino, Carl J||$592,600|
|Florida Democratic Party||$588,915|
|Florida Republican Party||$525,959|
|Dockery, Paula B||$281,500|
|McGriff Jr, Perry C||$150,500|
|Hospital Corporation of America||$67,500|
|Florida Chamber of Commerce||$62,000|
- See also: Florida State Senate elections, 2008
Elections for the office of Florida State Senate consisted of a primary election on August 26, 2008, and a general election on November 4, 2008.
During the 2008 election, the total contributions to Senate candidates was $13,201,165. The top 10 contributors were:
|2008 Donors, Florida State Senate|
|Florida Republican Party||$1,451,514|
|Florida Democratic Party||$591,635|
|Ryan, Timothy M||$142,570|
|Grant, Michael J||$132,532|
|Campbell Jr, Walter Skip||$81,841|
|Hospital Corp of America||$57,500|
|Florida Hospital Association||$53,500|
|Florida Cable Telecommunications Association||$38,500|
- See also: Florida State Senate elections, 2006
Elections for the office of Florida State Senate consisted of a primary election on September 5, 2006, and a general election on November 7, 2006.
During the 2006 election, the total contributions to Senate candidates was $16,698,450. The top 10 contributors were:
|2006 Donors, Florida State Senate|
|Ring, Jeremy S||$1,360,500|
|Florida Republican Party||$1,350,456|
|Florida Democratic Party||$420,384|
|Wellcare Health Plans||$52,000|
|Hospital Corp of America||$42,500|
|Florida Association of Realtors||$37,000|
|Florida Hospital Association||$33,500|
- See also: Florida State Senate elections, 2004
Elections for the office of Florida State Senate consisted of a primary election on August 31, 2004, and a general election on November 2, 2004.
During the 2004 election, the total contributions to Senate candidates was $4,973,600. The top 10 contributors were:
|2004 Donors, Florida State Senate|
|Florida Republican Party||$280,048|
|Florida Democratic Party||$223,544|
|Hospital Corp of America||$31,500|
|Florida Association Of Realtors||$25,000|
|Florida Hospital Association||$24,500|
|Florida Police Benevolent Association||$21,000|
|Florida Cable Telecommunications Association||$20,000|
|Florida Institute of Cpas||$17,000|
- See also: Florida State Senate elections, 2002
Elections for the office of Florida State Senate consisted of a primary election on September 10, 2002, and a general election on November 5, 2002.
During the 2002 election, the total contributions to Senate candidates was $13,012,199. The top 10 contributors were:
|2002 Donors, Florida State Senate|
|Florida Republican Party||$923,822|
|Florida Democratic Party||$558,973|
|Bennett, Michael S||$100,000|
|Lerner, Cindy L||$50,374|
|Florida Hospital Association||$44,000|
|Merchant, Sharon J||$35,100|
|Florida Cable Telecommunications Association||$34,500|
|Florida Power & Light||$32,000|
|Hospital Corp of America||$32,000|
|Cosgrove, John F||$30,500|
- See also: Florida State Senate elections, 2000
Elections for the office of Florida State Senate consisted of a primary election on September 5, 2000, and a general election on November 7, 2000.
During the 2000 election, the total contributions to Senate candidates was $12,151,845. The top 10 contributors were:
|2000 Donors, Florida State Senate|
|Florida Democratic Party||$850,482|
|Florida Republican Party||$816,398|
|Florida Cable Telecommunications Association||$38,978|
|Florida Power & Light||$35,500|
To run for the Florida State Senate, candidates must be 21 years old, have lived in Florida for two years and live in the district they intend to serve.
| How Vacancies are filled in State Legislatures |
If there is a vacancy in the senate, a special election must be called to fill the vacant seat. The Governor is responsible for calling the election and must consult with the Secretary of State to set the election dates and nominating deadlines. The person elected to fill the seat serves for the remainder of the unexpired term.
- See also: State legislatures with term limits
The Florida legislature is one of 15 state legislatures with term limits. Voters enacted the Florida Term Limits Act in 1992. That initiative said that Florida senators are subject to term limits of no more than two four-year terms.
- 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.
Florida received its 2010 local census data on March 16, 2011. The state population increased by 2.8 million residents, or 17.6 percent. 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."
The Senate redistricting committee approved a proposed map on January 11, which ultimately received final approval from the Florida State Legislature on February 9. The legislative maps were approved 80-37 in the House and 31-7 in the Senate, moving 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 House districts and providing extensive interpretation of the state's 2010 redistricting reform amendment. The Court found that eight districts had been drawn to favor incumbents and thus violated the state's legislative redistricting amendment. In addition, the court found that districts had been renumbered in order to allow select incumbents to serve longer terms.
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.
- See also: Partisan composition of state senates
|Party||As of March 2014|
The President of the Senate is selected by the majority party caucus and then elected by the full membership of the Senate. The President Pro Tempore is selected by the President of the Senate and elected by the full membership of the Senate.
|Current Leadership, Florida State Senate|
|President of the Senate||Don Gaetz||Republican|
|President pro tempore||Garrett Richter||Republican|
|Senate Majority Leader||Lizbeth Benacquisto||Republican|
|Senate Minority Leader||Christopher Smith||Democratic|
|Senate Minority Leader pro tempore||Maria Lorts Sachs||Democratic|
Members of the Florida Senate must be at least 21 years old, a resident of the district where they have been elected, and must have lived in the state for two years before running for election.
- 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.
When sworn in
Florida legislators assume office two weeks following their election.
Standing Senate Committees
Florida Senate has 20 standing committees for the 2013-2014 session:
- Banking and Insurance
- Children, Families, and Elder Affairs
- Commerce and Tourism
- Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities
- Community Affairs
- Criminal Justice
- Environmental Preservation and Conservation
- Ethics and Elections
- Governmental Oversight and Accountability
- Health Policy
- Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security
- Regulated Industries
David Levy Yulee was the first Senator of the Florida State Senate. He was elected in 1845 when Florida joined the Union.
Partisan balance 1992-2013
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.
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 have divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.
SQLI and partisanship
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
- Florida Constitution, accessed December 16, 2013(referenced Article III, Section 15a)
- Population in 2010 of the American states, accessed November 22, 2013
- Population in 2000 of the American states, Accessed November 27, 2013
- yahoo.com, "Florida legislature passes bill restricting drone use," April 17, 2013
- boardroombrief.com, "Florida Legislature – 2013 session overview," May 17, 2013
- Palm Beach Post, "Prison privatization proposal failure stings Fla. Senate President Mike Haridopolos," February 19, 2012
- Stateline.org, States balance budgets with cuts, not taxes, June 15, 2011
- Sunlight Foundation Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information, accessed June 16, 2013
- Stateline, "In Legislative Elections, Majorities and Supermajorities at Stake," November 2, 2012
- Follow the Money: "Florida Senate 2010 Campaign Contributions"
- Follow the Money, "Florida 2008 Candidates," Accessed July 12, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Florida 2006 Candidates," Accessed July 12, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Florida 2004 Candidates," Accessed July 12, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Florida 2002 Candidates," Accessed July 12, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Florida 2000 Candidates," Accessed July 12, 2013
- Florida Division of Elections, "Candidate Qualifying Information," accessed December 16, 2103
- Florida Legislature, "Florida Election Law," accessed December 16, 2013(Referenced Statute 100.101(2), Florida Election Code)
- Florida Legislature, "Florida Election Law," accessed December 16, 2013(Referenced Statute 100.141 (1) (2), Florida Election Code)
- Florida Legislature, "Florida Election Law," accessed December 16, 2013(Referenced Statute 100.111 (1) (a-c), Florida Election Code)
- Rose Report, "Florida Redistricting: The Complete Analysis," February 22, 2010
- Naples News, "Florida picks up 2 congressional seats, 2010 Census shows," December 21, 2010
- The Daily Loaf,"Fair Districts Florida makes it on 2010 ballot," January 22, 2010
- Miami Herald, "Florida redistricting plans get final passage," February 9, 2012
- WJHJ, "Florida Supreme Court Justices Reject Senate Redistricting Plan," March 9, 2012
- Orlando Sentinel, "State congressional, legislative districts approved by Justice Department," April 30, 2012
- Florida State Senate Glosary
- Florida State Senate Leadership
- NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
- History of the Florida State Senate
State of Florida
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