Florida Government and Politics Weekly Update (Election Results Special Edition)

05 November 2008 Publication
Authors: Robert H. Hosay Thomas J. Maida

Public Affairs News Alert

While Florida shifted from red to blue in the November 4, 2008 presidential election, Republicans held on to their 26-4 majority in the Florida Senate and sustained a net loss of one member to reduce their majority in the Florida House of Representatives to 76-44. In congressional races, two incumbent Republicans and one incumbent Democrat lost, reducing the Republican edge in the state congressional delegation to 15-10. Of the six state constitutional amendments on the ballot, three property tax amendments and a marriage amendment achieved the required 60 percent of the vote. The information in this report is based upon results posted by the Florida Division of Elections as of 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, November 5, 2008, and may not include results from absentee or provisional ballots.

Florida Senate
The Senate that will be seated at the Organizational Session on November 18, 2008 will include 26 Republicans and 14 Democrats, reflecting the same partisan split as the 2006 – 2008 Senate. Among the Senate races that attracted the most media attention, incoming Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach) was reelected with 62.1 percent of the vote, outgoing Rep. Thad Altman (R-Melbourne) was elected to the seat vacated by Sen. Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) with 58.6 percent of the vote, and former Rep. Nancy C. Detert (R-Venice) was elected to the seat vacated by Sen. Lisa Carlton (R-Osprey) with 58.3 percent of the vote. All of the senators running for reelection prevailed in their races.

Florida House of Representatives
As with the Senate, there were no upsets in elections for the Florida House. Republicans, who sustained a net loss of one seat, will go into the next legislative session with a 76-44 majority. These results could change, however, depending on the final outcome of a close north Florida race. In House District 11, incumbent Rep. Debbie Boyd (D-High Springs) holds a 42-vote lead over Elizabeth Porter (R-Lake City), well below the 0.5 percent threshold for a mandatory recount.

Congressional Delegation
In the 111th U.S. Congress, Florida will be represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by 15 Republicans and 10 Democrats, a net loss of one member for the Republicans. Incumbent Republicans were defeated in two central Florida districts. In the 8th District, Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) defeated incumbent Rep. Ric Keller (R-Orlando), and in the 24th District, Suzanne M. Kosmas (D-New Smyrna Beach) defeated incumbent Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Oviedo). Meanwhile, in the 16th District, Tom Rooney (R-Tequesta) defeated incumbent Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Palm Beach Gardens). The only other new member of the Florida delegation is former State Sen. Bill Posey (R-Rockledge), who was elected to succeed Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Melbourne) in the 15th District.

Constitutional Amendments
Voters adopted four proposed amendments to the State Constitution by the required 60 percent of the vote and defeated two amendments.

Amendment 2, providing that marriage is the legal union only of one man and one woman, and provides that no other legal union that is the substantial equivalent of marriage will be recognized, passed with 62.1 percent of the vote.

Three amendments relating to property tax assessments also passed. Amendment 3, allowing the Legislature to provide that a property’s assessed value will not be affected by improvements that increase the property’s resistance to wind damage or by the installation of renewable energy source devices, passed with 60.4 percent of the vote. Amendment 4, requiring the Legislature to provide a property tax exemption for real property encumbered by perpetual conservation easements or other perpetual conservation protections, passed with 68.5 percent of the vote. Amendment 6, providing for assessment of waterfront land used for specified purposes such as commercial fishing facilities and marine manufacturing facilities, based upon its current use, passed with 70.5 percent of the vote.

Two amendments failed to receive the required 60 percent of the vote. Amendment 1, deleting language that allows the state to regulate the ownership of land by “aliens ineligible for citizenship,” received 47.9 percent of the vote. Amendment 8, requiring the Legislature to authorize counties to levy a local option sales tax, subject to voter approval, to supplement community college funding, received 43.5 percent of the vote.

Upcoming Legislative Sessions
The Legislature will convene for a brief Organizational Session on November 18, 2008, at which time Sen. Atwater is expected to be elected Senate President for the 2008 – 2010 biennium, and at which time Rep. Ray Sansom (R-Destin) is expected to be elected Speaker of the House for 2008 – 2010. The two chambers also will adopt revised rules, and the new presiding officers may announce their leadership teams and committee chairs.

The 60-day 2009 Regular Session will convene on March 3, 2009. There also has been some discussion regarding the possibility that a Special Session to address state budget shortfalls will be called prior to the Regular Session.

Public Affairs News Alert is part of our ongoing commitment to providing up-to-the minute information about pressing concerns or industry issues affecting our clients and our colleagues. If you have any questions about this alert or would like to discuss this topic further, please contact your Foley attorney or any of the following individuals:

Marnie L. George
Tallahassee, Florida

Michael P. Harrell
Tallahassee, Florida

Robert H. Hosay
Tallahassee, Florida

Jonathan P. Kilman
Orlando, Florida

Thomas J. Maida
Tallahassee, Florida

Leonard E. Schulte
Tallahassee, Florida