TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida lawmakers will drop the gavel Tuesday on the 2024 legislative session.
We got the holidays out of the way, now it is that time of year again when we all start to look at the Florida Capitol and wonder what new laws will lawmakers pass this year.
The gavels are set to drop Tuesday morning, kicking off that 60-day lawmaking gauntlet in Tallahassee. But not before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives the state of the state address.
This year is different than most. That’s because as soon as DeSantis is done, he's heading back to Iowa and the 2024 campaign trail seeking that GOP presidential nomination as the caucus looms.
Meanwhile, lawmakers like House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo are expected to fill the void with big priorities. Renner is seeking better energy independence for Florida and age restrictions on social media.
"We cannot allow — in the case of EVs and other things— our country and our state to be dependent on countries like China," said Rep. Paul Renner, R-Florida House Speaker
Passidomo is pushing a major health policy to ease access to care and encourage more physicians to come to the state.
"In Florida today, we do not have enough health care personnel to take care of the Floridians that are living here," said Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Florida Senate President.
There’s also a growing slate of controversial GOP bills including weakening child labor protections for 16 and 17-year-olds, lowering the purchase age of long guns and rifles back to 18, and and doing away with no-excuse vote by mail.
"I think that voting in person is the absolute safest way of voting. And anything outside of voting in person, there's going to be a risk, there's going to be a margin of error," said Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill.
Democrats have already started pushing back on those ideas, saying the Republican supermajority isn’t tackling Florida’s real issues, like affordability.
"What are you fighting for? What’s the fight? Why do we still have problems? Some of this, it’s like going to the movies nowadays. There are no original ideas in here anymore," said Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood.
Lawmakers are expected to address one of the hottest topics in property insurance, with a transparency bill forcing companies to better disclose where consumer dollars go.
Other bills would ease access into Florida’s insurer of last resort, Citizens, which critics say is a backtrack after lawmakers tried to trim down the state-backed company’s policies and ease taxpayer exposure during the previous session.
One other big goal of the legislature is, of course, the budget.
DeSantis has asked for a $114 billion spending plan. But over the next 60 days, lawmakers will analyze it and decide what stays, what goes, and what can be added, because typically we end up with an amount that's higher than what the governor wants.
DeSantis, of course, gets the final say with his veto pen, and it all be figured out by the time they gavel out in March.