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New bosses bring new rules

House Speaker Marco Rubio and Senate President Ken Pruitt have already put in place significant changes for the upcoming 2007 session: An overhaul of the rules used to govern the two chambers. Looking at the rules approved last week, there's a few things worth contemplating.

In the House, Rubio decreased the number of councils and the number of committees _ meaning that there will be less plum assignments to hand out to his fellow Republicans. And the committees themselves will likely be composed of more members. This was done to accomplish Rubio's goal of tying together the committees that vote on substantive legislation with the ones responsible for drawing up the budget.

But in the Senate, Pruitt actually increased the number of standing committees, creating new committees to deal with education facilities, higher education budget issues and higher education legislation. This is a very interesting decision. Funding for education facilities used to be done behind closed doors by the chairman of the entire budget committee. And spinning off higher education budget issues into a stand-alone committee will reduce the influence of the education appropriations chairman.

The other big change in the Senate: The creation of six new policy and calendar committees that will be responsible for shepherding legislation to the floor instead of having it handled by a single committee. Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster calls this an effort to spread out the power instead of concentrating it in the hands of a few people.

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