The 2019 Legislative Session
2019 Legislative Session
With the 2018 legislative session recently completed, we begin the process of preparing for the 2019 session. Before we can do that however, it's important we all roll up our sleeves and participate in this critical upcoming election cycle.
This will be one of the busiest, most contested and important midterm elections in recent history.
Every seat in the Florida House of Representatives is on the ballot as required by the Constitution. However many incumbents normally do not face a challenger and many more races, based on demographics, are not winnable by the opposing party. However, this election will be historic due to the high number of "open seats" as well as many incumbents facing highly credible opponents. So much so that it's estimated that almost a quarter of the 2019 Florida House will be "freshman" or brand new to elected office. In the Florida Senate, there are several open seats, not to mention the handful of incumbents who will face challengers for the first time in their careers. It is expected generally that the Democrats will make gains this midterm cycle and that Florida, as usual, will be a key battleground state. Specifically, in the Florida Senate, it is possible that the balance of power could be impacted, something that hasn't happened in nearly 20 years. Regardless of who becomes Senate President in January, it is likely that the Democrats will close the gap to within a couple of seats. This will have a big impact in how the Senate negotiates policy measures with a much more conservative Florida House of Representatives.
As we all know, in the Governor's race we see large primaries on both sides. It is truly anyone's guess as to either of the "front runners". Republicans and Democrats see challengers from the progressive, centrist and conservative factions within their respective parties. The result of these primaries will have long-range implications for the futures of both parties.
All of the other Florida Cabinet offices: Attorney General, Agriculture Commissioner and Chief Financial Officer, are also up for grabs. We will have a brand new Agriculture Commissioner, a new Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer. The current CFO, Jimmy Patronis, was appointed by Governor Scott and will face his first election to that post.
It is also worth mentioning that with the completion of the Constitutional Revision Commission's work there will be 8 constitutional amendments on the ballot. It is extremely important that we collectively pay attention to these as they are amendments to our State's Constitution. These issues represent a broad range of public policy that will have a direct impact on our lives. It's important to take the time to understand what they intend to do. Based on their size and the fact that there are multiple issues included in most, it will take real effort to understand the ramifications of each one. It's important we do not let special interest groups frame the debate on these issues. Don't forget, in order to amend the Florida Constitution, it must pass with a supermajority, which is 60% of the general election vote. Most agree that whether you support or oppose an amendment that bar should be high because amending the Constitution is serious business. There will also be several amendments to the constitution outside of the Constitutional Revision Commission process as well placed there by the legislature and citizen initiative.
So let's work hard, pay attention and most importantly GET INVOLVED this election cycle! In short, there will be many new faces at the outset of the 2019 legislative session regardless of who wins.
Session is only 60 days!!
2019 Session Dates
March 5, 2019 Regular Session convenes 12:00 noon, deadline for filing bills for introduction.
April 20, 2019 All bills are immediately certified. Motion to reconsider made and considered the same day.
April 23, 2019 50th day – last day for regularly scheduled committee meetings.
May 3, 2019 60th day – last day of Regular Session.
How to Advocate
The legislative process in plain English
Advocating in the legislature can feel like going to court without a lawyer. The 60 day legislative session can be fast and furious, interspersed with so many deadlines and rules that it can be intimidating. These rules can often be used as “excuses” as to why a good thing can’t happen, or why certain requests can’t be entertained. Thousands of bills are filed and only a relatively few will pass. Here are some important things to remember:
Bills are drafted and then filed by Representatives or Senators. They will be assigned to Committees by the Speaker’s Office (in the case of the House of Representatives) or the Senate President (in thee of the Florida Senate).
Once bills are “referred” to Committee they must have a hearing in those committees. Both bodies will generally refer a bill to at least three or four committees.
Most bills will die because they do not get through all their committee references. Bills will often pass all of their committee stops in one body but not both. This bill is dead.
Once bills complete all committee stops they are placed on the House or Senate Calendar.
There are two stops for floor hearings in the House and Senate. First is the “Special Order” Calendar where bills are brought up, amended if necessary, and questions are asked. After the sponsor has explained the bill and all questions are asked and answered a bill is “rolled over” to “third reading.”
The following day a “third reading” calendar will be posted. This is where bills are debated and ultimately voted on. Once a bill is voted out of the Senate it is sent to the House and is placed in “messages.”
An identical bill will have to pass both the House and Senate for final passage to the Governor. This means that even if they are identical (which they must eventually be) the Senate will take up the House Bill in lieu of the Senate bill or vice versa.
One of the most common ways bills die is that the House and Senate cannot agree on language in a bill. Bills often contain various provisions and any different language in any part of the bill will render it out of order.
Overriding truths and principles for successful advocacy
- There is no more effective advocate than a well-informed constituent. None. Personalize your communication.
- Tell your story. Putting a face or personal anecdote on an issue will mean all the difference in the world.
- A personal visit is the most effective means of communicating with a legislator. Don’t assume that this must take place in Tallahassee. Legislators have office hours in their district offices too.
- Legislative Aides are a critical cog in the wheel. They decide what a legislator sees and when. Get to know them and always be nice even if you know your legislator.
- It’s often a question of timing. On any given day a legislator will face dozens of important issues. With limited time before committee hearings a good aide will make sure the boss sees the most important items.
- People with the identical amount of integrity can come to opposite positions on an issue. Never forget that.
- Don’t ever take a “no” personally. This experience will prove helpful in future contacts even if your legislator can’t help on this particular occasion.
- Make an appointment in advance. Usually ask for 30 minutes but don’t be offended if you only get 15.
- Timing is everything. Visits prior to a vote by the committee in which your bill will be heard are particularly effective. Visits prior to a vote by either the full Senate or House are also helpful.
- Session is a moving target. Issues come fast and furious and if you are looking at an “alert” or a newspaper story from a week ago, it is highly likely that the issue has changed or evolved completely.
- Tell the truth even if it weakens your argument.
- Legislators are like Emergency Room doctors. They have heard it all.
- Organize your visit if you are seeing a legislator with multiple issues. Time will be limited. Decide in advance of the visit who will say what, and don’t repeat the same points.
- Whatever you do, do not burn bridges. Today’s supporter may be next week’s opponent, and vice versa.
- Develop a relationship. The information you know about these issues is legitimately helpful to legislators. Go back and visit and say thank you. Make it a point to schedule a visit to say thank you if appropriate.
- Write a thank you note.
- Make yourself familiar with the following websites: Myflorida.com http://www.myflorida.com/and Myfloridahouse.com http://www.myfloridahouse.com/will help you to monitor bills and look up committee agenda’s during session; Sayfiereview.com http://www.sayfiereview.com/ is an excellent source of news and blogs that monitors the legislative session. It is what most legislators and lobbyists will review first thing in the morning!