TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – For the next two months, Florida state senators will gather to discuss, vote on or simply set aside 935 bills.
Senators can introduce an unlimited number of bills, and while it’s not a competition, some Florida senators used that power more than others. House representatives can introduce a maximum of six bills, so there isn’t as much variation in their volume.
Which senators exercised this power for the 2019 session? Let’s take a look.
Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, led his colleagues with 69 bills, plus an additional three he co-sponsored. This is Gruters’ first session in the Senate, and he previously served one term in the House.
On the Democratic side, Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, leads with 43 sponsored bills. She co-sponsored 14. Book is one of only two Democrats who will chair a committee this session – the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee.
Some senators prioritize co-sponsoring bills, and Gaineville’s Republican senator Keith Perry leads the pack with 26. That’s 11 more than senators Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, and Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, who tied for the second-highest number of co-sponsored bills.
Perry chairs the Criminal Justice Committee. He introduced 39 bills on his own, bringing his total to 65, which puts him just behind Gruters’ volume.
He said while chairing a committee is hard work, he doesn’t let it impede his bill production.
“I have a limited amount of time to come up here and try to make an impact,” Perry said. “So we’re going to work as hard as we can in that limited amount of time to do the most beneficial things in the state of Florida.”
While many of his bills come from working with special interest groups, he said some of his most valuable policies, like elementary school music education, come from him and his staff alone.
Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has extra responsibilities related to his leadership role. As is customary for the presiding officer, he is the only senator with zero bills introduced under his own name.
Still, Galvano will be involved with virtually every piece of legislation this session.
“History is not going to judge the success of this session by the number of bills we pass,” Galvano said during the opening Senate session on Tuesday. “On the contrary: It will judge the success of this session by the quality of its actions.”
Senate majority leader Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, ushered in the second fewest number of bills – two sponsored and one co-sponsored.
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami, introduced 10 bills and co-sponsored four, despite his long tenure in the Florida Legislature. Braynon was first elected to the House in 2008 and served for three years before joining the Senate in 2011. He preceded Audrey Gibson as Senate minority leader.
The legislators’ roles also influence the numbers of bills they are likely to introduce. Those in leadership roles such as president pro tempore and minority leader average the fewest number of single-sponsored bills – roughly 13 per legislator. Committee chairs are next in line with 21.
Sponsored bill numbers rise for lawmakers serving outside of leadership including subcommittee chairs, who averaged 28 bills this year. Legislators who did not chair any committees or hold any leadership positions averaged 25 sponsored bills.
There’s one reason committee chairs are less likely to author their own bills: Committees can also introduce bills, and frequently do. Even though Friday’s deadline for lawmakers to file bills has passed, nothing is ever really final until the session adjourns Sine Die.
Explore the full range of bills on the Florida Senate’s website .
This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.