A Student’s Guide to the Legislative Process in Florida

Ron Book

April 4, 2023

Ron Book

Page & Messenger Program

The Page & Messenger Program gives young people a front-row seat to the state legislative process. Pages work on the House floor, alongside legislators running errands for them and Messengers delivering mail and packages throughout the Capitol Complex.

Page & Messenger programs are a long-standing tradition in the Florida House. Historic journals mention them as far back as 1865.

The Page & Messenger Program is open to any high school student interested in state government. The age requirement for participation is 15 to 18 on the first day of their assigned week.

Legislative Session

Legislation, or bills, are offered by legislators for consideration. They are often inspired by various reasons, including changes in how people think about an issue, members’ concerns, or legislative process goals that they’ve set for themselves as lawmakers.

Each bill moves through a series of committees that examine it and give their opinions on how to change or improve it. The committees report back to the House or Senate with their findings and recommendations for amendments.

These recommendations may or may not be adopted in the bill’s final version. Once a bill has passed both houses, it goes to the Governor for approval or veto. If the Governor vetoes a bill, the Legislature may override the veto by a majority vote.

Rules of the House

The House of Representatives consists of 120 members, each representing a district. During even-numbered years, House members are elected for two-year terms.

The Legislature meets every year in a 60-day session beginning on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. During these sessions, the House and Senate formally debate and vote on bills introduced in both chambers.

The House is headed by a speaker elected to a two-year term. It has the power to preside over the chamber during a session, appoint committee members and chairs of committees, influence the placement of bills on the calendar, and rule on procedural motions. If the Speaker leaves the chair or there is a vacancy, the House Speaker pro tempore assumes the Speaker’s duties.

Rules of the Senate

The Rules of the Senate govern the conduct of legislative process business on the chamber floor. They include a set of standing rules, a body of precedents created by the rulings of the presiding officers or by the votes of senators, and a variety of established and customary practices.

The elected voting membership of the Senate comprises 40 members, whose districts are generally divided into odd-numbered districts (in years divisible by four) and even-numbered districts (in years ending in the digit two).

Overrides of Gubernatorial Vetoes

Governors maintain the power to veto legislation in the checks and balances system of a state. The laws and rules vary from state to state, but all 50 states have some sort of veto process.

Most bills (95 per cent) become law unless the Governor vetoes them within a certain timeframe, usually a few days. Some states allow Governors to veto entire legislative process measures, while others have other veto types, including “line-item” vetoes, “reduction” vetoes, and “pocket” vetoes.

In Florida, the Legislature has overridden vetoes only twice in the past 24 years — by a Republican governor and a Democratic one. Democrat Bob Graham’s veto of a bill requiring chiropractic treatment to be covered in health-insurance policies was overridden in 1986. Lawton Chiles’s veto of a measure changing the rules of evidence was overridden twelve years later.