After one of the most tumultuous years since Republicans assumed control of the Florida Legislature - the GOP-controlled House and Senate return this week for a 60-day jaunt that many legislative leaders hope/predict is relatively calm and uneventful heading into what could be a highly unpredictable election year.
Most insiders of course can recount the score: The budget meltdown, the abrupt ending of the 2015 regular session, two failed redistricting special sessions, a budget finally passed with days to go before a state government shutdown.
Legislators are returning early this year as part of an experiment to move up the date so that lawmakers can be back home in time to spend spring break with their families. (It would take a change in the constitution to move up session start for every year.)
Here then are the 5 biggest questions of session:
Can everybody just get along?
The expectation is that the resolution of the long-simmering Senate presidency battle (which was won by Sen. Joe Negron) and the Senate's tabling of Medicaid expansion should make it easier to reach a consensus on the state budget and other issues. Throw in the fact that it's an election year and there is an anticipation that there will be a willingness to compromise. But that may not capture the complicated situation at hand.
First all, there's Gov. Rick Scott who enters the session with a longer wish list than normal. And it's not just the $1 billion tax cut package and Enterprise Florida reforms that the governor wants (although that appears to be a big ask). Scott put together a $3 billion gambling deal with the Seminoles and he's also pursuing his health care transparency package.
Last year Scott showed that there is a price to pay (through his substantial budget vetoes) if you don't go his way. So you can be assured that remains on the minds of many legislators.
But let's not forget there are some Scott agency heads whose fates remained unresolved, or that there remains a split in fundraising/political activities that has resulted in the Senate and Scott raising money separately from the party. You can also throw in the whole unsettled situation in the Senate due to a redrawn state Senate map that could theoretically force some senators to moderate their positions.
Lastly, a key question is how supporters of former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the Legislature will view Scott's decision to nudge ever so closely to endorsing GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Say what you will about the sausage-making in the state Capitol a lot of it still depends on connections and relationships and many of the items cited could play a role. And if Scott is viewed as isolated from members of his party then there is even less willingness to work with him.
Is it possible to ever reach an agreement on gambling?
Well, you certainly wouldn't want to bet on it given the competing forces (including dog and horse tracks from outside of South Florida) who don't like some of the fine print on the deal that Scott reached with the Seminole Tribe. In the past few years attempts to pass major gambling bills have floundered amid the Scylla and Charybdis that exists in the Legislature on this issue.
But Scott remains a wild card on this. The governor, who began his business career as a deal maker, put together a proposed compact with tribal officials that was guaranteed to get big headlines and promised a big payout.
Throughout his time as governor Scott has remained, for lack of a better word, agnostic about gambling in the state. In other words, the governor isn't going to back the tribe, the dog tracks, the anti-gambling factions including Disney, Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson, or even Trump at all cost.
It would not be surprising if Scott's approach is basically: 'Hey, I helped put together a deal. Tribe, it's up to you and your lobbyists to get it passed.' And more importantly, is Scott amenable to changes as long as the overarching achievement - the money in the state's bank account is unchanged? Signs point to yes.
Tribal officials - who are still locked in a court battle over whether they can keep blackjack tables in their casinos under the 2010 deal that expired last summer - may have to decide if they need to cobble together something that makes everyone happy. Or decide if they could take their chances and just wait until next year.
Scott has been very deferential so far in his public pronouncements and has made it clear that it's up to the Legislature to work something out. If it doesn't happen the governor can maintain it wasn't his fault.
How many gun bills will reach their target?
Apart from the budget and gambling battles, you can expect a fair amount of attention in the media to be focused on the gun bills already moving through the Legislature. These include bills allowing open carry of firearms, guns on college campuses and changes to the Stand Your Ground law.
The decision by legislative leaders to already allow these bills to move through legislative committees even before the start of the 60-day session is a sign that there is considerable support for them.
And President Barack Obama's decision to pursue actions on guns on the federal level will likely add momentum as GOP legislators will be able to contrast their actions at the state level with what's happening with D.C.
Plus long-time National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer has made it abundantly clear that she and her supporters have no plans to modify their stances on these bills. Hammer has told everyone that she will be keep pushing the legislation for as long as it takes.
Put that together and it would reasonable to assume that most, if not all, of the bills stand a good chance of reaching Scott's desk later this year. Yes, there is opposition to the various bills, including Florida State University President John Thrasher and university police chiefs on campus carry to some of Florida's sheriff's on open carry.
But the gun bills give Republicans a chance to do something that will fire up their own political base heading into what could be a chaotic election season.
There is a caveat with all of this though and that's the unresolved question of whether the new Senate districts (which appear to tilt toward Democrats) will persuade some senators that contentious issues of this sort need to be put on hold until 2017.
How will the growing power of Joe Negron and Richard Corcoran affect the process?
The general theory about the Legislature is that the influence/power of the outgoing legislative leaders begins to ebb during their second session while the clout of their successors begins to grow.
There have been exceptions to that rule over the years i.e. Dean Cannon as House speaker and John McKay as Senate president.
There will be those who will make snide comments that Corcoran, a former top aide to Rubio and current House budget chief, already has considerable sway in the House. Yes there are many signs that he does wield a good deal of influence, but expect it to get even larger.
Among some insiders who follow the process the operating theory right now is that House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner will get to watch their top priorities pass in the opening days of the session. (For Crisafulli, a potential Agriculture Commissioner candidate, that's a comprehensive water bill, while for Gardiner it's bills to aid families with children who have developmental disabilities.)
After that moment of comity, the rest of the session will be conducted in Corcoran and Negron's shadow. That could affect plenty of important bills, whether it's Negron's support of a measure to legalize/regulate fantasy sports to the judiciary reforms that Corcoran has already promised to push through.
Other considerations: Negron, an attorney, has clashed in the past with the insurance industry so that may make it hard for them to push through changes opposed by trial attorneys such as the revamp of assignment of benefits. Corcoran - along with his successor Rep. Jose Oliva - have expressed skepticism about for targeted business incentives like those championed by Scott or for items such as film incentives or subsidies to sports teams and operations.
Will this really be a do-nothing year for the Florida Legislature?
Talk to most lobbyists and they will quietly concur: This may be a really tough year to get anything substantial passed.
The reasons are many, starting with the epic battles of last year (see No. 1) to what appears to be an unpredictable election year (see Trump, Donald.)
There is a feeling right now that any attempt to move major changes/reforms in key areas will be difficult. It's not just the gambling deal with the tribe. This could flow to everything else including the types of tax cuts, health care changes pursued by the House to some of the environmental bills being pursued to alimony reform and major education bills. If Republican leaders are intent on putting aside any public disagreements then the easiest way may be to just deep-six many of the more contentious proposals.
As of this past weekend, 1,644 bills have been filed which does appear to put the Legislature on pace to meet last year's totals so maybe legislators themselves remain somewhat optimistic that they can things done. There is always a natural tendency for the Legislature to try to fix/improve/change things and have something to campaign about in the fall.
But the most substantial year for legislation in recent years was 2011 when you had a new governor and a supermajority in the Legislature following the 2010 wave year for the GOP. That track record suggests that 2016 will be relatively quiet.