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Legislators return with crop of new members and a new tone of cooperation

What a difference an election can make.

As legislators return to Tallahassee for their two-month-long annual session, beginning Tuesday, they will tackle some of the state’s most intractable problems, and they vow to do it with a new tone.

From property insurance and foreclosure reform to implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and shoring up the state’s embattled education system, the issues are complicated and challenging.

Much of the debate in recent years has been driven by ideology, but this year the Republican-led Legislature faces no election. After Florida voted to reelect Democrat Barack Obama, the political rhetoric of GOP leaders has inched closer to the middle. The Legislature is undergoing an image makeover.

“In recent years, we may have done things that were more politically driven than policy driven,’’ said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, the Senate Rules chairman, who is both a former speaker of the House and chairman of the Republican Party. “The longer you’re in, the more you realize you don’t know everything, and you may need to step back and adjust a little bit to move forward in a positive direction.”

Legislative leaders who campaigned against the president’s signature issue, healthcare reform, are now drafting legislation to implement it. More here.

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