But it appears so far that this year's 60-day march will be relatively low-key, and perhaps, much less contentious than the last three years since Gov. Rick Scott took office. (Example: The 2011 session may remain one of the most substantive sessions in the last decade.)
Still there may be a few flashpoints between now and early May when legislators wrap up their work and hit the campaign trail.
Here are the 5 biggest questions that should be answered between now and then:
1. Is this year's gambling legislation the real deal, or is it all for show?
Here at the start of the session we now have dueling versions of gambling bills that have been rolled out by House and Senate leaders. One of the substantial differences between the two bills is that the Senate version would allow the establishment of two major casinos in South Florida, while the House bill is more of an overhaul of existing gambling regulations. The Senate bill also has wording right now that appears to allow slot machines at some pari-mutuels outside Broward and Miami-Dade although that has been explained as inadvertent.
House Speakr Will Weatherford has maintained that the House will not move forward on any gaming legislation without a constitutional amendment that subjects gambling expansion to voter approval and a new compact negotiated between the governor and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The rationale for waiting on a new compact is that any new gaming bill could affect the agreement that brings in more than $200 million a year to the state. A key portion of that agreement expires in 2015. The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported on Tuesday that Scott has opened negotiations with the tribe.
So that could put the entire deck of cards in play if Scott does produce a new compact with the tribe in the new few weeks.
But what's significantly different about the gambling debate from other high profile issues is that it pits some of the biggest political heavyweights in Florida in direct competition with each other, whether it's Disney and the Florida Chamber of Commerce (which oppose expansion), the tribe (which is fighting to keep its existing monopoly that lets it make money off its Tampa casino), or the pari-mutuels (which are fighting to remain viable) or the Las Vegas casino owners who want to build in South Florida.
Now maybe Disney and Central Florida business owners come to the grudging realization that the best deal is to accept one in which they accept casinos in South Florida, but with the understanding that nothing happens north of the Broward county line. Some cynics, however, have suggested this entire process may continue to get dragged out, especially since it has produced hundreds of thousands in political contributions for both parties.
Still there are some legislators who have suggested that the Legislature remains too fractured over the issue and unable to come up with a deal. Right now there isn't even a plan to bring any bills up for a vote for at least another two weeks. Sen. John Thrasher, the veteran North Florida Republican and former head of the party, on opening day called the entire debate a "distraction" and said he hoped they would just quickly kill off the discussion for another year.
2. Will the Republican-controlled Legislature really approve in-state tuition rates for the children of illegal immigrants?
Weatherford on opening day made an impassioned plea for legislators to approve legislation that would allow children of illegal immigrants who had been brought to this country, but had graduated from a Florida high school, to be eligible for the same tuition rate that is charged to other Florida residents. He said it was wrong to "punish" children who had done nothing wrong.
Last year the House considered a similar bill but the key difference here is last year's bill applied only to U.S. born-children of illegal immigrants and it largely codified an existing federal court ruling.
This issue of in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants, sometimes referred to as "Dreamers," is not new. There have been numerous instances in which one chamber or the other has pushed this proposal and other high-profile Republicans such as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio backed the idea.
But as Rubio showed as he weighed into the debate over immigration, this can trigger some intense debate among the conservatives that make up the base of the Republican Party. It could be argued it also was one of the things that wounded the presidential campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Senate President Don Gaetz has already said he is opposed to the legislation and that he could not explain to his constituents why he could support, in his words, give benefits to someone ahead of someone else who played by the rules.
The question, however, remains whether or not the Legislature wants to put this bill on the desk of Gov. Rick Scott during a critical re-election year.
There's no doubt that Scott's signing of the bill could potentially help him with some Hispanic voters in Florida. Hispanic Republican legislators have been among the steadfast supporters of this legislation for many years.
But would Scott be tempted to veto the bill in an effort to show loyalty to the conservatives who help propel him into office? Would signing the bill risk keeping them at home in a year when he needs every vote?
Scott for his part keeps saying he is "considering" the bill because he remains concerned about the high cost of tuition for all families. Still it's worth wondering whether or not Scott's team quietly asks legislators to push this off in order to avoid the publicity and contentious debate that it could trigger.
3. Testing vs. vouchers
Since entering the Florida Legislature one of the most ardent champions of vouchers, or "school choice" as he and supporters term it, has been Weatherford.
Both Weatherford and Gaetz have said that one of their priorities remains yet another expansion of the state program that offers tax credits to companies that steer money to organizations that hand out vouchers. This year's proposal is significant because it would offer a tax credit for sales taxes, which is the biggest chunk of the state budget and which is paid by lots of companies. The bill would also widen who could qualify for vouchers.
Yet Gaetz has thrown in his own requirement that could ultimately doom the effort.
In his opening day speech, Gaetz told his fellow senators that children who go to private schools courtesy of these vouchers "should be assessed just like the performance of any other child. Why? Because testing is not just about score-carding. It is about measuring academic progress so schools and teachers can customize instruction to meet individual student needs, so parents will know how their children are really doing, so taxpayers can be sure how their money is used."
Let's be clear - it is not unusual for private schools to require standardized tests of students. Jon East, who works for one of the organizations that back vouchers, even points out this out in a recent blog item that students who receive the scholarships have been required to take a norm-referenced test since 2006.
But those tests are not the state-sanctioned tests such as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and private schools may not use these standardized tests in a way that comes even close to how the public schools use them (such as ranking schools and evaluating teacher performance).
And there's where the debate, and resistance lies. Private schools operators would argue that it would be unfair to mandate a particular type of standardized test. You can go even further. Some private schools in recent years have touted the fact from a marketing standpoint that their schools DO NOT require FCAT testing.
East himself nails the point: "It's which test, not whether to test."
So how will private schools respond if the state says, ok, in the future, students who accept vouchers must take the same test that all students will start taking in 2015 (which is when a new test tied to Common Core.) Some may have no problem since some are in fact tying their curriculum to Common Core just like the public schools. But this debate could cause enough division that it complicates the voucher expansion effort.
4. Could Rick Scott still have a tough session?
Both Weatherford and Gaetz have in many ways cleared the way for Scott to have one of the smoothest sessions he has had since he took office in 2011. They quickly embraced his call for $500 million in tax cuts - and they have already pledged to keep college tuition flat this year as the governor asked.
So does that mean Scott will get everything he wants?
That's not entirely clear.
One early flashpoint has to do with Scott's call to completely eliminate the differential tuition that universities are now allowed to charge.
The universities got the Florida Legislature to give them some limited amount of discretion to raise tuition a maximum of 15 percent a year regardless of the tuition rate set by legislators. The argument at the time was that Florida tuition is low compared to the national average and that students should pay their fair share. This change in law was championed initially by the University of Florida and Florida State University, both of whom have a sizable number of alumni in the Legislature.
The two legislative leaders have initially said that they are willing to lower the differential tuition rate from a maximum of 15 percent to 6 percent.
But Scott wants it entirely eliminated. So far, Weatherford has said he understands the governor's position but he has not endorsed doing that. This could be an interesting and evolving debate for most of the next 60 day session.
Another potential area of discord: Will Scott's appointments - particularly his agency heads such as Department of Economic Opportunity director Jesse Panuccio - get confirmed? There are rumblings that Panuccio may have a tough time. One recent article pointed out that Gaetz himself would not say for sure if he would be confirmed.
Part of this could be the constant dance between legislators and the governor as each side tries to have some small bit of leverage. There was another small bit of evidence of behind-the-scenes intrigue when Rep. Seth McKeel gave the Department of Management Services a dressing down and floated an amendment to take away Scott's control of DMS and instead place it under the governor and Cabinet.
5. Will there be a libertarian wave during this year's session?
Republicans in the Florida Legislature have long wrestled with questions of deregulation, government intrustion versus the need for stability and order.
For example, one big battle early in Gov. Jeb Bush's first term was whether he would sign a bill that eliminated the helmet requirement for motorcyclists. Bush eventually signed the bill into law despite a heavy veto push, including from those in the insurance industry.
This year we have bills to loosen up speed limits, get rid of red light cameras, authorize certain sizes of beer bottles, let grocery stores sell liquor, and even a measure that would permit a certain strain of marijuana to be legal in the state.
For many regular Floridians these arguments over pot, booze and speeding may wind up being the most important things that legislators wind up doing. But some of these bills have also sparked a fair amount of lobbying in opposition from various interest groups whether it's law enforcement authorities, liquor store owners, and driver safety groups.