66 new Florida lawmakers arrive in Tallahassee for training
A week after Florida voters elected them, 66 new state lawmakers -- who make up 40 percent of the entire Legislature -- will be in Tallahassee on Tuesday for training and orientation.
More than a third of the 120-member House and half of the 40-member Senate are new to their legislative seats for 2017. Many have held elected office before (even within the Legislature itself), but for several, this is their first foray into public service.
Over the next two days, freshmen House members will learn the basics of legislating and the essentials for navigating the Capitol itself. Sessions range from "Introduction to State Government" and lessons in ethics, open meetings and public records to "How to Fill Out your Committee Preference Form" and "What to Expect in Your First Term."
Incoming senators will have similar training, too, although they're only in town for one day.
Among the 46 freshmen House members, there are expected to be 24 Republicans and 22 Democrats -- the second-largest freshman class in the Florida House's history. (There were 63 new members in 2000.) The final partisan breakdown depends on the outcome of a recount for a Miami-Dade House seat, in which Democrat Robert Acensio led Republican David Rivera by 68 votes in initial Election Day results.
Two of the freshmen House members are recently experienced in the Legislature having moved from the Senate back to the House with Tuesday's election: Palm Beach County Democrat Joe Abruzzo and Rockledge Republican Thad Altman.
In the Senate, 20 are freshmen -- the largest freshmen class in the chamber's history, with 11 Democrats and nine Republicans. At least a dozen are recently former representatives promoted by voters last week to the Legislature's upper chamber.
All 160 lawmakers will return to Tallahassee next week for the organizational session on Nov. 22, during which they'll be sworn in to their new terms in office.
Times/Herald co-bureau chief Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.