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Making laws: The influence from history

Posted at 9:20 AM, Mar 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-05 05:06:24-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- It is what is sometimes referred to as a "political migration".

Lawmakers from across the state are returning to Tallahassee to begin their 60 day legislative session. 120 Representatives in the House and 40 Senators in the neighboring chamber.

"It's like a marathon. You get up in the morning and you just keep going," said Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, a Democrat who represents a portion of Leon County for District 9.

As a lawmaker, their sole job is finding solutions for the state's challenges.

"I think the founders of this country...wanted this to be a market place of ideas not to be one solution, not a one person solution but all working together to see the problem and all add what we can to it," Vasilinda said.

Over time the challenges have change, the state has grown. Proof of that can be seen steps away at the Old Capitol.  

"This is Florida's Capitol from 1845 when Florida first became a state. The 27th state to join the Union," said Michelle Gammon Purvis, curator of the Old Capitol.

The Old Capitol is seen today after being restored to its 1902 appearance. A day when there were just 68 Representatives and 32 Senators, in addition to housing the Governor's office and the Florida Supreme Court.

Now a museum, the Old Capitol was used up until 1978 when the new Capitol building was built.

"The Capitol Commission I think wanted to bring in an architect that represented the modern era and the 1970's, really the early 1970's is when they were picking out the design, skyscrapers were the next frontier in architecture so think that's really why they went with that design," Purvis said.

Both capitols are considered to be buildings built by the people, for the people. Beyond the motto, it is something considered by lawmakers to be built on a set of standards by ways of the past.

History lends itself greatly to not only the set up of the Capitol buildings, but the operations within the buildings.

Started in the 1920's, "Sine Die" is one of those traditions that lawmaker's carry on. In this practice the Sergeant-At-Arms of each respective chamber drop a handkerchief to mark the end of session. According to the Old Capitol Museum, it is a tradition dating back before telephones were installed in the Old Capitol, so that the President and Speaker knew when the other chamber had adjourned for good.

Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda says it's important that current lawmakers remember the lessons that can be learned from practices in history.

"I think it helps you remember to keep a sense of decorum, to keep a sense of history," Vasilinda said. "It's about what you're doing for the state of Florida, about what you're doing for Democracy, about what you're doing for the people.

A job that not only impacts millions of Floridians, but can change the mark of history.