Florida Legislative Session Preview

December 14, 2018

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Florida’s legislative session begins March 5, 2019. Below is an early look at some dynamics expected among Florida’s legislators and governor-elect, and the issues – from healthcare to workers’ compensation – that are sure to drive constituent interest and committee hearing debates. Stay tuned for more information as the session date approaches.

Florida’s 60-day session begins March 5, with Republicans maintaining a stronghold in the state after the midterm elections. Bills can be filed now, and committees likely will begin to hear legislation by the third week in January and continue into February.

The Florida legislative chambers remain mostly unchanged after the midterm elections. The House stands at 73 Republicans and 47 Democrats, with Republicans losing a net of two seats. In the Senate, all incumbents on the ballot were victorious, with the exception of state Sen. Dana Young (R-Tampa), who was defeated by House Minority Leader Janet Cruz. The Senate now stands at 23 Republicans and 17 Democrats.

For 2019, the election results yield much of the same center-right policies with some differences in the executive branch, with new agency heads, a more conservative approach to regulation, and a different approach to environmental regulation that emphasizes solving the state’s algae problems and red tide. 

Governor-elect Ron DeSantis’ positions on issues are in some instances more conservative than those held by Gov. Rick Scott. His strongest supporter in the legislature is incoming Speaker Jose Oliva (R-Miami), who takes a principled, philosophically conservative approach to governing. Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Sarasota) is a more pragmatic conservative who skillfully balances the will of a far more difficult and independent-minded chamber. 

The relationship between the governor and the legislature will be mostly friendly, with very little risk of paying more taxes and enduring costlier regulations. However, sacred cows, such as the state’s tax code and myriad of exemptions, could always be on the table for review. State economic development programs may not be as highly funded, as DeSantis and Oliva have expressed skepticism that incentives are a proper way to “create jobs.” 

On education, Governor-elect DeSantis and Speaker Oliva will push to expand Florida’s already robust educational choice programs, such as charter schools and vouchers, while the Senate indicated it wants to revisit recent legislation aimed at growing the sectors.

Healthcare will be more of the same, with Medicaid expansion on the backburner and territorial fights between payers and providers, and environmental/transportation spending may increase to address voter concerns over water and infrastructure. 

Other issues for the 2019 session include:

  • Election reform. Lawmakers in the Florida House are preparing to discuss election reform early in the session — as three statewide races went to disputed recounts. Democratic leader Rep. Kionne McGhee (D-Miami) pledged to make election reform a top priority, and House Speaker Oliva (R-Miami) told reporters that the Nov. 6 election merits legislative examination.
  • Worker’s compensation. Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Sarasota) indicated that Florida’s worker’s compensation insurance laws may be on the table for the 2019 legislative session. Two state Supreme Court rulings could result in rate hikes in the future; looking at the system now will give the legislature time to reform before the potential increase in rates.
  • Constitutional amendment bundling. Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) filed a bill to end constitutional amendment bundling in Florida. The measure offers a single-subject limitation for the Constitution Revision Commission, which has grouped together unrelated measures into a single amendment in the past.

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