The Corcoran Report: April 2012
The 2012 Regular Legislative Session officially closed at midnight, March 9th.

During the 60-day session, Florida's Legislature completed the state budget for the coming year, passed 292 of the 2,052 bills filed this session, and completed the once-a-decade task of redrawing district boundaries for State House, Senate and Congressional districts in Florida.

The pace of the session was less frenetic than recent sessions. The early start of session this year, in January, preempted the typical seven weeks of committee meetings - which are normally held in January and February - before the beginning of session in March.

The focus on redistricting - the redrawing of the House, Senate and Congressional districts - also dominated much of the focus of the summer and fall. This resulted in redistricting plans that were completed early in session but left little time leading up to session for other issues.

With an election year looming and with the prospect of many districts boundaries changing, members were eager to get home to begin campaigning in earnest.

A few notable issues were debated this session, including changes to the personal injury protection (PIP) coverage required for Florida drivers, creation of Florida's 12th university in Polk County, proposed changes to regional transportation authorities, changes in property insurance coverage, several tort reform issues and funding for the Medicaid program and changes to public notice requirements.

This year, a hallmark of Governor Scott's budget recommendations was a $1 billion increase in funding for K-12 education. The House and Senate agreed to that funding increase and passed the state budget on the final day of session. While the Governor has not yet signed the budget, he will do so before April 21st.

The morning of the second-to-last day of session was marked by discussion and debate related to Florida's public records law. Representative Ritch Workman and Senator Mike Bennett proposed legislation allowing governments to place public notices on their Websites. This was touted as a way to save local government dollars currently spent to comply with Florida's public records law.

Although an amendment was filed which would have expanded the number of papers eligible to publish public notice, the amendment did not pass and was not included in the legislation. During the final day of session, legislation did pass allowing local governments to run public notices on their Websites.

During the final day of regular session, Florida's Supreme Court also approved the redistricting plans for the Florida House but did not approve the redistricting plans for the Florida Senate. As a result, the Legislature was called into special session for two weeks to redraw the Florida Senate districts and this new plan has been sent to the Supreme Court again for review. Should the court not approve this version, the court could choose to draw the Senate district boundaries themselves.

Since the Florida House district boundaries have been approved, members are campaigning in earnest, some in new districts where they have represented previously only a small percentage of those voters who reside in the newly drawn districts. In some cases, two incumbent members now live in the same district and they face the choice either to run against one another or for one member to wait and run again, once the other member terms out.

As an example, Representative Brad Drake and Representative Marti Coley now live in the same district in the Panhandle. Since Representative Coley has only two years left to serve before she is term limited, Representative Drake has chosen to not seek re-election and instead will run in 2014 for that seat, once Representative Coley is term limited.

In the Senate, with the Florida Senate plan still in limbo, members are raising campaign funds but are still awaiting the final boundaries for their particular district. This makes campaigning challenging, when you aren't quite sure which voters will be in your district and which will be outside your district.

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