Two weeks after the election as required by the Constitution, Florida lawmakers met in Tallahassee Tuesday to organize themselves. New leaders are promising a kinder, gentler process, but a host of challenging issues are waiting for action.
Twenty-two newly elected legislators took their oath along with returning veterans.
The Florida House has 19 new members, while the Senate has two.
Republicans still vastly outnumber Democrats in both chambers. Republicans picked up three seats in the House and now control the chamber by a margin of 84 to 36.
In the Senate, the split is 26 to 14 in favor of Republicans.
Allan Bense of Panama City was sworn in as the new speaker of the House, while Tom Lee of Brandon was elected president of the Senate.
While Republicans dominate both chambers, Speaker Allan Bense says he'll work to make sure Democrats' voices are heard on the issues.
And while this was a time to celebrate, lawmakers will come back in a month to turmoil as they try to create a voter mandated pre-k program and deal with hurricane insurance problems.
Sam Miller of the Florida Insurance Institute is already conceding that double deductibles will be a thing of the past.
“We don’t really oppose them doing it but we appreciate an opportunity to work with them on the details. I mean where you’re going to find the money is very important.”
Beyond hurricanes and day care, limits on lawsuits, a change in the way the state taxes and budgets and constitutional amendment reform are all on the legislative plate in months ahead.
While kinder and gentler are the watch words of the day there never been tougher challenges and if history is any guide that will make for a bumpy legislative road ahead.
Florida lawmakers will return to the state capitol on December 13 for a special session that’s expected to last one week. They’ll be dealing with hurricane recovery issues and creation of a statewide pre-kindergarten program.