It’s now official. Republicans control a supermajority of both the Florida House and Senate for the first time in a decade.
With 28 Senators and 84 House members, Republicans boast unfettered command over the legislative process, spelling a smooth two years for the GOP agenda. Senate President-designate Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker-designate Paul Renner will have the privilege of overseeing the supermajorities.
It’s the scenario Democrats were hoping to avoid during the campaign. FL Senate Victory, the Senate Democratic caucus’ campaign arm, presented a unified front with its first-ever statewide bus tour on behalf of five key candidates — an ultimately futile effort, as all five candidates lost their races.
On that tour, Sen. Jason Pizzo argued Democrats’ case for preventing a Republican supermajority.
A Republican supermajority would bring “that same kind of flippant attitude that you’ve heard from Republicans in the House and the Senate the past couple years,” Pizzo told reporters, “the ‘because we can’ without justifying, without qualifying any of their culture war arguments that are basically made up, that are unnecessary to the people at home and the kitchen table issues of actually worry about.”
House and Senate rules dictate specifically which actions the chambers can take with the blessing of a supermajority. Each chamber’s 2022-24 rules haven’t yet been finalized, but the 2020-22 rules give a glimpse at some of the majority’s new powers, including some powers that are constitutionally granted.
By a two-thirds vote, either chamber can vote to reconsider a bill passed that day, allowing lawmakers to further amend such a bill. Two-thirds votes are also necessary to pass public records or public meeting exemptions.
Lawmakers may also choose to limit debate on a matter by a supermajority.
Lawmakers can also eliminate the need to “read” a bill on three separate days before passing it, or immediately add a bill to the Special Order Calendar for consideration that day.
With two-thirds’ approval, either chamber can also amend a bill on third reading, just before final passage, or take up a late-filed amendment that could otherwise be blocked.
Lawmakers can also waive their chamber’s rules with a supermajority.
Either house can even punish members for legislative conduct and ethics violations with a two-thirds majority, including expelling them. And, of course, each chamber can override a veto from the Governor by two-thirds.
Perhaps the most important rule for the prospective Special Session next month is that a supermajority will allow the chamber to take up legislation outside the originally stated purposes of the Session.
The last time Republicans had at least 80 House members and at least 27 Senators was the 2010-12 term, when they held 81 House seats and 28 Senate seats. However, even when Democrats held enough seats to prevent a supermajority, they haven’t always enforced it.
Notably, during a Special Session last year on vaccine mandates, Democrats could have halted a public records bill that was critical to Republicans’ effort to prevent vaccine orders.
It’s not the only instance in recent years of Democrats allowing Republicans to have their way without flexing their limited procedural powers. With Democrats’ powers now gone, it’s a question of when, not if, Republicans will next take advantage of their new strength.
Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.
But first …
The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
GOP sweeps Florida on Election Night — On a night many predicted would cast a conservative wave across the United States, surging red waters crashed over Florida as the state broke the surf for the rest of the nation, dissipating the wave. Republicans mounted a historic night in Florida, sweeping state offices by the widest margin in 40 years and ushering in a deep roster of conservative lawmakers at all levels of government. Marco Rubio and Ron DeSantis won their re-elections for the U.S. Senate and Governor, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis were re-elected and outgoing Senate President Wilton Simpson retook Agriculture Commissioner for the GOP. Florida’s delegation to the U.S. House went from 16-11 to 20-8 and Republicans claimed supermajorities in both legislative chambers.
Donald Trump – DeSantis feud enters the open — Following DeSantis’ blowout on Tuesday and the poor performance of former President Trump’s hand-picked candidates across the country, conservative voices are turning away from Trump and toward the Governor as their 2024 pick. This week, Trump removed all ambiguity about his feelings about “Ron DeSanctimonious.” In a searing statement from Trump’s Save America PAC, Trump unleashed on DeSantis as just an “average Republican Governor” propped up by Fox News and related properties. That’s on top of the former President’s Truth Social post questioning the significance of DeSantis’ victory.
Hurricane Nicole slams Central Florida — Florida’s emergency leaders have revisited recovery plans twice in less than 50 days. Weeks after Hurricane Ian ravaged Southwest Florida, Hurricane Nicole swept over portions of Central Florida. Wind, rain and outages are among the destruction leaders are now addressing, particularly on the Space Coast. This is Director Kevin Guthrie’s second storm since taking the helm of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management. Guthrie said he is applying the lessons learned from Category 4 Ian to Nicole. He hopes to conclude state operations by Monday. “You will see a very quick response,” Guthrie said. “I have an internal clock, if you will, of what I want to see our response look like. I want us out there completely searched, stabilized and secured within 72 hours.” At least five people have died in Florida because of Nicole, according to reports.
DeSantis transitions to second term – Two of DeSantis’ former Chiefs of Staff — Adrian Lukis and Shane Strum — and Miami lawyer Scott Wagner will help the Governor pick the members of his administration for his second term. “During my second term in office, we will remain focused on continuing to lead on the priorities that matter to Floridians like keeping our schools open and free from indoctrination, protecting and preserving our world-class environment, and maintaining a booming economy,” DeSantis said. The Governor also announced an application portal for “qualified” jobseekers looking to work in his administration.
Ben Sasse wins final vote for UF President — In a different vote this week than the ones counted on Election Night, Nebraska U.S. Sen. Sasse passed his final hurdle to becoming the next President of the University of Florida. The State University System Board of Governors approved the Republican by a voice vote, setting him up to succeed President Kent Fuchs in February. The controversial pick has drawn protest from students and faculty, including for his opposition to gay marriage. The BOG had nothing but praise for Sasse, with members saying the Senator had won over skeptics.
See you later
After losing his race Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson isn’t saying goodbye. He’s saying “see you later.”
In a letter to supporters, the Democratic Congressman said things are looking up despite his loss to Republican U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn by nearly 20 percentage points in the 2nd Congressional District.
“With all the talk of democracy at stake, I still remain optimistic about the future of our country,” Lawson said. “The United States is a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. During this campaign, I traveled throughout this district, and I met people of all political stripes. And while we may not have always agreed politically, I consistently found that we shared the same love of country. The American people are fundamentally good, and this campaign has only strengthened my faith in our nation.”
Both Congressmen have represented different parts of North Florida since 2016. When redistricting drew them into the same district, the pair squared off in one of only two incumbent-on-incumbent races across the nation this General Election.
Noting that Americans come together after the ballots are counted, Lawson said he called Dunn to pledge his support to his success on behalf of the people of North Florida.
“Our campaign comes to an end, but our work is just beginning. We must keep advancing the issues and values that we hold dear and that make this nation great,” Lawson said. “This is not goodbye, but rather see you later. Let’s keep moving America forward.”
Florida is for vets
Florida claims to be the most veteran friendly state in the nation.
With 1.5 million veterans and a spate of state agencies and state- created partners providing resources and opportunities for former military personnel, the claims may be true.
The Governor’s Office issued a press release announcing the state agencies that interact with veterans as well as the veteran-friendly policies.
The Florida Department of Veterans Affairs (FDVA) is the premier point of entry for veterans. It operates a network of nine veterans’ homes and provides statewide outreach to connect veterans with their earned services, benefits and support.
Veterans Florida is a state created non-profit that operates the Florida’s Veterans Employment and Training Services Program and also promotes the state’s veteran-friendly image. To that end, Veterans Florida recently partnered with Enterprise Florida to launch eVeterans Florida to host a National Veterans Small Business Week webinar.
The Department of Education administers the Military Veterans Certification Pathway, a unique opportunity for Florida’s talented veterans to obtain a 5-year temporary teaching certificate prior to earning their bachelor’s degree.
The Department of Children and Families has partnered with FDVA and First Lady Casey DeSantis on the Continue the Mission initiative, which recruits veterans and military spouses to be child protective investigators, mentors, and case managers. Since the launch of this program in June 2022 more than 450 individuals have applied.
And the Department of Health (DOH) expedites the licensing process for honorably discharged veterans and their spouses and waives most licensing fees. DOH also helps issue temporary licensure for spouses of active duty service members so long as they are licensed health care professionals in other states and in good standing.
The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) administers the Recovery Housing Program for veterans. The grant program provides assistance with relocation payments, rental assistance, new construction, acquisition, and/or rehabilitation of housing facilities.
RHP is funded completely with federal dollars that are disbursed by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Florida received $1.7 million in RHP funding. DeSantis announced in the news release he disbursed $1.5 million in RHP awards.
“Florida’s veterans have made countless sacrifices to protect our freedoms, and in return we are working hard to ensure they have the resources and support they need to be successful and take care of their families. My administration will continue to invest in our veterans in the same way that they made sacrifices to invest in the freedom of our nation.”
Meanwhile the DEO is hosting the Florida Veterans Workforce Summit Tuesday through Friday to provide statewide training to help local workforce development board staff to support veterans, service members, and eligible spouses as they find and begin meaningful careers.
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