Friday, February 26, 2010

How much do you know about Florida’s Legislative Process?

How much do you know about the legislative process in Florida that could soon have a significant impact on the way you run your community and the costs associated with doing so?

We have a part-time Legislature in the State of Florida. We have 160 members of the Florida Legislature: 40 Senators and 120 Representatives. The President of the Florida Senate is Jeff Atwater (a banker from North Palm Beach) and the Speaker of the House is Larry Cretul (a realtor from Ocala).

Our 2010 Regular Session will commence on Tuesday, March 2nd at 9:00 am and will run for 60 days. Each legislator is given 6 bill slots and the filing deadline to fill those slots is noon on March 2nd. Once a legislator sponsors a bill, it is referred to one or more committees related to the bill’s subject. Each committee of reference studies the bill and decides if it should pass, fail or amend the bill. Once a bill has passed through all its committees of reference it will then go to the full house for a vote. A majority of the full house will then vote to accept the bill as is, change it or reject it. Once passed, the bill then goes to the other house of the Legislature for review.

When a bill is passed by both houses, it is then sent to the Governor (usually in June). The Governor can sign the bill into law, allow it to pass into law without his or her signature or veto it. Unfortunately, in Florida, we do not have a line-item veto and more than one worthy bill has suffered a gubernatorial veto unnecessarily.

Our legislators have hundreds of bills pass their desks during our 2-month legislative session. There is simply no way that these elected officials can be subject matter experts on each of those proposals so they rely on constituents like you to relay what you do and don’t like about the proposals that have the most impact on you. It is possible to play a meaningful role in our legislative process rather than simply reacting after the fact.

Your community should know who your representatives are and they should know you. When your representatives are in their district office, it is advisable to make an appointment to stop by and introduce your community and spend a few minutes discussing issues of particular concern to your members. Most bills start out as an idea planted in a legislator’s mind by a tenancious constituent. Why shouldn’t that constituent be you? For more information about how your community can get involved this Legislative Session, please visit the Community Advocacy Network’s website at www.canfl.com.

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