There are 60 days during March and April when Florida elected representatives establish a budget and draft and sponsor bills for the residents of the state. During this time, the lobbyist, and the different political organizations and groups propose legislation, which the two parties eventually agree on to get signed into law by the governor.
Each representative in the two houses is able to propose six different bills during this legislative session, and very few Floridians are aware of the process. Once a bill is introduced in one house, a companion bill must be introduced in the other house. The committees determine which proposed legislatures have the most support and the best chance in becoming a bill.
There are many different reasons why a representative sponsors a bill; this process begins in September, and the horse-trading begins. Some bills are personal and impact the representative’s heart, others support their ideology, and some factually and economically make sense.
The bill or horse-trading begins when the two houses are working together to get a companion bill in the two houses. Everyone must cooperate and move the proposed legislature through the different committees and especially the appropriations committee. It is very difficult to get a bill passed during the legislative session because the heads of the two Houses together decide on which bills they support.
The legislative process is not transparent because in Florida the Republican Party controls both Houses and the Democrats have no power. Since Governor Scott is a Republican, and the Republicans control the power, the Democrats cannot challenge their agenda or ideas. The Republicans may argue among themselves, but their ideology and thinking is the same.
During the legislative session the Democratic legislators must be more transparent with their constituents. Many of their constituents have no idea what the legislative issues are this session, and it appears that everything is done in secret or behind closed doors. The legislators should be sending each week an update on the bills that they are sponsoring, the other bills they support, and the bills that need to be defeated.
The Women Voters League sends out a weekly newsletter that discusses the major issues and bills in this session. There are some excellent bills being argued in this session such as Online Voter Registration, which establishes a system of registering to vote online. Also, there is a bill for the extension of Health Care that should be supported by both parties and the residents of Florida. Finally, there is a gun safety bill that would allow concealed weapons on college campuses that should not be supported.
The legislative session is the time of the year when our representatives should be talking the most to their constituents. There is a political disconnect with our representatives because we don’t hear much from them after we elect them to office. There is a fundamental problem in the system when deals are made in secret, and the representatives feel that most of their constituents don’t care about what happens in Tallahassee.
Roger Caldwell, a community activist, author, journalist, radio host and CEO of On Point Media Group, lives in Orlando. His book, The Inspiring Journey of a Stroke Survivor, details the story of his recovery from a massive stroke. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.