Florida’s Legislative Session, How Can it Work for the Indian River Lagoon?

"Save our River," River Kidz FDOT recycled art sign, now in Washington DC, office of Congressman Patrick Murphy. (Photo JTL)
“Save our River,” River Kidz FDOT recycled art sign, now in Washington DC, office of Congressman Patrick Murphy. (Photo JTL)

After six years as a locally elected official, one thing is clear. I still do not really understand how the Florida Legislature works or how to make it work for me, but I’m getting there.

I thought with the Legislative Session convening, today, March 4, 2014, I would try to share what I do think I know or what I think I have figured out.

First of all, the basics. The legislature is composed of two “houses:” the House, that consist of 120 members http://www.myfloridahouse.gov

and a  Senate, that is composed of 40 members http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Senate. Each represents a district according to population.

The House leadership includes Speaker of the House; Speaker pro tempore; Majority Leader; Minority Leader and committee chairs. These House seats come up for reelection every two years. Not fun.

The Senate leadership consist of the President of the Senate; President pro tempore; Majority Leader; Minority Leader and  committee chairs. Senate seats come up for reelection every four years, so you can at least get something going before you have to jump back into the reelection circus.

There are term limits for both the house and the Senate but because they are defined as “consecutive” you can take a break and then jump back in….

So what have they been doing? Well, recently they have been in Tallahassee and had “House and Senate Interim Committee Meetings.” The dates of those meetings were as follows:  September 2013, 23-27; October 7-11; November 4-8; December 9-13;  January 2014, 6-10; 13-17; February 3-7; 10-14; and 17-21.  So what do they do at these “interim meetings?” In their committees they formulate the bills that individuals will sponsor and try to get passed starting today, March 4th, when the session officially begins. This year the last day of session  is May 2nd.  So it is two months of “mayhem …”

A bill can start in the House or the Senate but it has to have a “companion bill” to move forward and be voted upon. Hundreds of bills are brought before the legislature each session but only a fraction will make it into law. You can imagine there are many different interest throughout our varying state…

As the session continues, it is difficult to keep track of everything and bills usually get packaged along with others, sometimes with others that have nothing to do with them. As a locally elected official, this frustrates me as I feel every bill should be considered separately as local ordinances are. Well, this is not the case, and allows for negotiating– better said, “if you help me, I’ll help you,” which at the end of the day is not so bad. What is bad, is that the people, the voting public, have almost no way of keeping up with all this hop-schotching, so we are 100% dependent on our elected officials and those watching out for us at home. To complicate issues further, elected officials are pressured, and blackmailed, mostly by their own party, to do what they need to do to make a deal work or “we won’t let your bill be heard” or “you’ll never get to chair a committee,” especially if you are a freshmen or relatively new to the pecking order.

It takes years to develop the seniority to do what you want, so to speak. Senator Joe Negron http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Negron a good example, as he served in the House before he served in the Senate, then he became the head of the Appropriations Committee (they all sit on committees in some capacity ) and his recent  position has a lot of influence and power. Senator Negron could not have started the “senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee” years ago; he has earned his position to do such.

So how do you stay on top of all this  politicking ? It  is kind of like holding an angry cat. Hold on tight but be prepared to get scratched. Go on line to the state website and get on email alerts and call your local delegation: here in Martin, St Lucie and Indian River: Senator Joe Negron; Representative Gayle Harrell and Representative Mary Lynn Magar; Representative Debbie Mayfield; Representative Larry Lee,  and tell them you expect them to support  St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon policy and whatever else is important to you; tell them you appreciate what they are doing, and that you are paying attention to reports in the newspaper as far as how they vote. Most of all, be supportive so they support you. And be sure to tell them “good luck not getting scratched.”

6 thoughts on “Florida’s Legislative Session, How Can it Work for the Indian River Lagoon?

  1. Priceless JTL!!! U ROCK – U WILL BE PRES ONE DAY – AND I AM COMING TO DINNER AT THE WHITE HOUSE!

  2. Thank you Jacqui, for helping to educate all of us and for writing this article in terms that are easily understood. Might you consider sending this to to Eva S. I think it deserves more attention.

  3. Comments free form from Facebook: Thanks. Everyone should read this. Clear, concise, educational.
    15 hours ago · Like · 1

    AnnaMarie Wintercorn Very educational!
    15 hours ago · Like · 1

    Kenny Flanagan U say he has earned that position where he has been on the coat tails of Pruitt for years
    My problem is … This issue has been around for years and the republicans have set on their hands and did nothing even when Pruitt had control
    It’s time to stop supporting people that will do only if they can do something about it
    Negron has a VERY powerful position not only is he chair or co chair of EVERY committe he seats on but he also is position to be prez of the senate …. And as a lawyer usally writes most on the bills introduced
    His position he also decides how many and which committe bills are sent to
    Very important cause when a bill gets several committees attached they usally die in session …. Don’t make this out more than it is its politics these men make about 39000 in this position and most become millionaires…. Go figure…. If you think he can’t give whatever u want
    U better study a little more
    14 hours ago · Like · 1

    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch Kenny I obviously am not as versed as you are on these issues. I will study more. Thanks so much for your comments.
    14 hours ago · Like

    Kenny Flanagan Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch
    I have never thrown a political function at my house
    I have never served as a commidhioneer of any city
    I’m sure u more versed in politics than I ever could be
    But I’m sure u have heard of pork
    I’m sure u know how committees work
    I’m sure you know how easy it is for politicans to push through anything they want and how easy it is to make something die in session
    Republicans have run the state of Florida for years…. The water subject has had bills written many times in different ways by many different people…. Sen Pruitt had his chance to help… He choose to help sugar and himself… Went from a fairly well known realitor to one of the most unknown powerful person in the state right now
    Joe negron has been in Tallahassee since 2000 I believe ( Harrell) also
    They have always had the gov ear… Negron didn’t just make is name in the past couple years … Treasure coast builders asso as gotten him power in this state… He also has chosen to ignore water…. Now that groups and people like urself has shown him pressure … He has chosen for the first time in 13 years to show interest … But early in the year ( first day of session
    He shows it’s not his number one value …….. I chose not to shake his hand also not to give him my vote in nov…..
    13 hours ago · Like

    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch Kenny freedom if speech is number one but you are tough and that’s ok with me
    13 hours ago · Like

    Kenny Flanagan Has nothing to do with tough it has to do with honesty
    I’m sure you don’t remember me from school
    I’ve only been here from the late 60s I know your family is well know and respected…See More
    13 hours ago · Like · 1

    Sean Murphy Lawmakers can beat their chests all they want. New laws will not help the Lagoon. We must enforce the laws that exist already to include, seizing polluters lands under Federal Law that permits us to do so. The whole idea that they’re doing something ab…See More
    13 hours ago · Like · 3

    Sean Murphy The time is now to stop it, not do another study of a study that studies a study Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.
    13 hours ago · Like
    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

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