The annual legislative session is upon us. Since last year was a reapportionment year, the once every ten year session to draw new legislative district boundaries, that session ended in early March. However, the first week of March is the normal start time of the regular session, thus it has been one year since our state-level lawmakers have gathered for the purpose of doing good work for the people of Florida.
The Florida Constitution calls for the start of the session to be the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. It runs for sixty consecutive days. When it is called to order on March 5th, it will begin, like all sessions, with great promise and hope. People who run for a seat in this august body do so with the hope and desire to make some lasting impression on Florida. Whether it is the creation of a law, or the appropriation of dollars to fund some worthy project, legislators have ideas, both grand and not-so-grand, but all with the intent to make some positive impact on our state.
The 2013 session will be no exception. Great issues ranging from the implementation of provisions of the federal health care law to campaign finance reform are but two of the many topics that will be tackled. When lawmakers enter the chamber on opening day the world will, truly, be their oyster. The opportunity to do good work will be virtually unlimited. However, those endless possibilities become less “endless” and more limited as the session moves forward. It is the reality of a process that runs for a mere two months that not every priority of every lawmaker will, or should, be enacted. As the session clock ticks away those issues which have the greatest chance of passing continue on, while others fall by the wayside, perhaps to be considered another year.
The governor, an integral part of this process, will also work to have his priorities make it into the statute books. At times, the governor’s priorities are at odds with the legislature’s. At times, the priorities of the two chambers (House and Senate) are at odds with one another. It is this almost adversarial approach to lawmaking that is designed to make the best laws. Rarely does either chamber get all it wants, and that is a good thing. Lawmaking is truly a team sport. Many minds coming together can do great things, including keeping in check ideas that may not be practical or feasible in the real world.
Time will tell how successful this session will be. Plenty of media ink and keystrokes will be devoted to covering the daily activities in the Capitol. By the time the final gavel falls on May 5th only so many bills will have made it through the process. Those that do go on to receive the governor’s signature will be the official legacy of the 2013 session. However, the issues that did not make it to the end will most likely shape policy discussions for months and even years to come. Don’t discount the bills that do not make it to a final vote this year. There is a good chance that they will be back, perhaps in a better fashion than they were left in this year.
In the legislative process it is a sign of maturity when a lawmaker understands that not everything he/she campaigned on will ever make it into the law books. Rather, those things that do make it through should be the best possible statute for the greatest amount of people, at a cost that justifies any expenditure of public funds. The ultimate arbiter of this success is, of course, those who voice their opinion at the ballot box. People are a smart bunch. An informed voter is a powerful voter. They will write the history of a particular session as much as any one legislator will. And that is a good thing.
If you have any comments or questions about the legislative process please does not hesitate to leave a note below. I will gladly respond in a reply or an upcoming blog post. Please don’t forget, stay informed! As always, thank you for your loyal readership.