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The Legislature

Florida's State CapitalHave you ever wondered who decides how long a school day can be, or when a student can drive without an adult in the car, or how many math credits a student needs before graduation? The answer to all these questions lies in the Legislature of the State of Florida.

Senate District MapThe Florida Legislature, which is divided into two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives, makes laws or rules that govern our state. Members of the legislature, Senators and Representatives, are chosen by the citizens of Florida to represent them and the area where they live. These areas are called districts. Each Senator and Representative is responsible for making sure that the people who elected him or her have a voice in all matters concerning the state.

House District MapSenators are elected to serve four-year terms. Representatives are elected to serve two-year terms. Currently, 40 Senators and 120 members of the House of Representatives serve the people of Florida. Members of both houses must be at least 21 years old, a resident of the district where they have been elected, and must have lived in the state for two years before running for election.

Each year, the legislature meets in legislative session to determine and debate issues important to the people in our state. Issues like driving regulations, recycling, and education are debated. In most years, the regular session begins on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March and lasts for sixty days. It ends either in sine die adjournment, with the ceremonial dropping of white handkerchiefs by each house’s Sergeant at Arms, or in an extension of the regular session to complete unfinished work.

During session, legislators work on making new laws or changing old laws. Each member also serves on several committees where the effects of laws on the people in our state are studied. Any member of either house can make suggestions for new laws.

These suggestions, called bills, are studied in committees. The committee can change the bill, accept the bill, or reject the bill. If the bill is changed or accepted by the committee, it is then sent to the full house which in turn votes to accept the bill as it is, change the bill, or reject the bill. Passage of a bill occurs when the bill is accepted, in most instances, by a majority of the members of one house. The passed bill goes to the other house of the Florida Legislature for review; that means a bill passed in the Senate goes to the House of Representatives for review. The bill goes through the same process in the second house as it did in the first house. The only bill that is required to be passed every year is the state's budget.

PledgeWhen a bill is passed by both houses it is sent to the Governor for action. The Governor may sign the bill, allow it to become a law without his signature, or veto it. All the laws are compiled to form the Florida Statutes.

Senators invite selected students (ages 15-18) to come to Tallahassee for one week to work as pages during the regular session. Pages distribute materials and deliver messages to Senators and staff. They also participate in mock session and have scheduled visits to offices in other branches of government. House members also invite pages (ages 12-14) and messengers (ages 15-18) to work during the regular session.

This guide to the legislative process was created to help students become familiar with the Florida Legislature. Your participation in the legislative process is essential to the preservation of democracy. You can make a difference!

Senate Chamber Activity

Senate State of Florida Seal

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