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Florida Legislative History: About the Florida Legislature

The Florida Legislative

The Florida Legislature is a bicameral body composed of the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives. The Florida Senate has 40 members who serve four-year terms. The Florida House of Representatives has 120 members who serve two-year terms. The Florida Legislature is authorized by Article III, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution to create and amend the laws of the state, subject to the governor's power to veto legislation found in Article III, Section 8.

The Florida Legislature meets in a regular legislative session every year. The regular session lasts sixty days. Special sessions may be called by the governor, by a joint proclamation of the president of the Florida Senate and speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, or by a three-fifths vote of all legislators. During a special session, the legislators may only address business that is within the purview of the purpose(s) stated in the Special Session Proclamation.

The Legislative Process

Legislators propose legislation in the form of bills, which are drafted or reviewed by the Bill Drafting Services of the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives. Upon filing, Senate bills are designated SB and assigned an even number. House bills are designated HB and are assigned an odd number.

House Rule 5.3 prohibits members of the Florida House of Representatives from filing more than six bills in a regular session. Claim bills, presenting a claim for compensation for an individual or entity for injuries or losses caused by negligence or error on the part of a public office or agency, do not count towards a member's six bills. There is no limit on the number of bills that can be filed by a Florida Senator.

A bill is referred to one or more committees related to the subject of the bill. The committee analyzes the bill and may conduct hearings to obtain more information about the subject of the bill. After consideration, the committee votes to amend, pass, or defeat the bill. If the bill is defeated in committee, it is dead for the rest of the session.

If the bill passes in the committee, it moves to other committees or to the full chamber. A bill is read three times in the chamber before being voted on by the full membership of the chamber.

If a bill passes in either the Senate or the House of Representatives, it is sent to the other house for review. The bill goes through the same process in the second house as it did in the first. A bill can go back and forth between the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives until a consensus is reached.

If a bill is approved by both chambers of the Florida Legislature and sent to the governor during the legislative session, it is called an act. The governor has seven days to act. If the governor receives the approved bill after the conclusion of the session, the governor has fifteen days to act. The governor can sign a bill, veto a bill, or take no action, in which case the bill becomes law without the governor's signature. 

A bill must make it through the entire process before the end of the session. If a bill fails at any step, it is dead and must begin the process again in the next session.