November is a busy month in Tallahassee.
The 2016 election is now behind us and we now know who will comprise the Florida House and Senate for the 2017 and 2018 Legislative Sessions. The state Senate will see a small shift in power, from 26-14 GOP majority to 25-15. Democrats also made small gains in the House, though they are negligible due to the GOP retaining a strong majority. Despite the small changes, both chambers will look very different than they have in recent sessions, as both are welcoming large numbers of new members. After this year’s election, 41 percent of those elected will be first-timers. The Legislature will experience its largest freshman class with 66 new members out of 160 legislators — 20 of the 40 senators and 46 out of the 120 House members.
In addition, House and Senate leaders have begun releasing the names of their committee chairs. The first bills of the 2017 Legislative Session have been filed and the two chambers have met to organize the structure of their chambers.
So what’s next?
During the first two weeks of December, the Florida House and Senate will convene for their first committee weeks. Committee meetings allow the legislature to fully vet bills and amendments prior to a legislation receiving its floor hearings and votes. We anticipate that many bills will be filed over the upcoming weeks. Among the bills that are rumored will be filed is guns-on-campuses language, an overhaul of higher education funding, state employee pay raises and adjustments to the state’s water policies.
Leading up to the legislative session, FMHCA’s government relations committee and lobbying team will be reviewing these bills and dozens of others. In addition, FMHCA will hold its inaugural Legislative Action Days in January; during this event, FMHCA’s members will meet their legislators in their Tallahassee offices to establish a relationships and a foundation for advocacy.
With half of the Senate and a significant portion of the House newly-elected, profound attention will need to be paid to networking with and educating the state legislature. Unlike national policy, our state legislature can move very quickly. FMHCA will be asking you to reach out to your legislators to establish relationships, so that when those changes come, your profession is “at the table and not on the menu!”
By Corinne Mixon, Lobbyist, Mixon & Associates