TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida lawmakers are back in Tallahassee this week for a brief organizational session to formally elect House and Senate leadership for the next two years. Republicans are celebrating supermajorities in both chambers, while Democrats are trying to figure out how to stay relevant.
The GOP will now have easier paths to approve bills, change chamber rules, or use their power to override vetos from the governor.
"At the end of the day, we are all we have," Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book said. "We are all for one, one for all. We have to get better. We have to be stronger. We have to be tougher."
Book was trying to stay positive when asked about her party's weakened position Monday. She said members would work to find common ground with Republicans, hopeful there would be plenty of opportunity.
"We have all been talking about property insurance, affordability, affordable housing, workforce housing," she said. "Those are things we've been working on and agree with the other side of the aisle on."
There's plenty of disagreement, too. This year, Republicans pushed through new laws regulating sex and race education, controversial immigration reform and a 15-week abortion ban. Some GOP members said they now feel emboldened to go further when returning for the 2023 session after election night successes.
"This is a mandate that they like what we're doing here in the state of Florida," Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, said earlier this month. "There is a reason that people are moving to this state in droves."
Further abortion restrictions remain a chief concern for the minority party. Democrats have vowed to fight any proposal should it arise and there are reports of Republicans mulling a 12-week ban.
Incoming House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell was hopeful national political headwinds on abortion would be her party’s saving grace.
"There were five states that had abortion on the ballot around this country," she said. "Even Kentucky, which is far redder than Florida, voted to protect. Even the people of Kentucky did. So I think that (Gov. Ron) DeSantis has painted himself into a corner."
Floridians will get a preview of how this new batch of lawmakers cooperates in the coming weeks. Members are expected to return for a special session on property insurance next month — likely the week of Dec. 12.