Two weeks after the midterm election and two days after recounts in two statewide races ended, the 2018-2020 Florida Legislature meets for the first time in an organization session Tuesday morning to swear-in new members and elect new leaders.
The 40-member Florida Senate will meet first going into session at 9:30 a.m. The Senate will chose President-designate Bill Galvano, a 52-year-old Republican attorney from Bradenton, to lead the chamber for the next two years.
An hour later, the House will elect Speaker-designate Jose Oliva, a 45-year-old Miami Lakes Republican who is an executive in a cigar-making company, to be the next House speaker.
Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville and Rep. Kionne McGhee of Miami will lead the Democratic caucuses in their respective chambers.
The Democrats increased their seats in the House to 47 members in the 120-member chamber. In the Senate, Republicans hold a 23-17 margin over Democrats.
The organization session comes on the heels of a rather contentious election cycle that saw three statewide contests — U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner — that were all within the 0.5 vote margins that triggered machine recounts under state law. Following the machine recount, the Senate and agriculture commissioner contests were still within 0.25 percent which requires a hand recount under state statute.
The hand recount deadline was noon Sunday. When the results were announced, Gov. Rick Scott defeated Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in the Senate race, while Democrat Nikki Fried won the agriculture commissioner’s seat over Republican Rep, Matt Caldwell.
Galvano told reporters last week that he will touch on the election in his acceptance speech Tuesday.
“I think it’s time that we put that stage behind us and come together and get some meaningful work done,” Galvano said.
The day will actually start at 9:00 a.m. at the Capitol with the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission meeting to certify the election results. The commission consists of Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam who will both take part in the brief meeting via telephone. Gov. Scott is the third member of the commission, but he recused himself since he was a candidate in the Senate race. State Sen. Rob Bradley will fill in for Scott.