Florida's first Cuban-American Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio, 36, led his chamber with energy. But sometimes Rubio led with a little too much youth, a little too much energy.
He proposed multiple property-tax-cut plans that led to three required extraordinary lawmaking sessions last year and estranged some state senators along the way. While he never quite got what he wanted out of the Legislature, a variant of his tax-swap idea was placed on November's ballot by the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission.
The tax-swap was one of the concepts in Rubio's 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future initiative, which he pushed as a way to change the way the Legislature approaches governing.
Mercurial, funny, self-deprecating at times and often bold, Rubio tried to make the partisan House more bipartisan by giving Democrats better offices and more power on committees. Rubio clashed with Gov. Charlie Crist at times over taxes, but even that had a benefit for the young lawmaker, who saw his popularity jump in his home base of Miami-Dade.
Rubio's likeliest next move: A Miami state senate seat in 2010, rather than a run for Miami-Dade County mayor this year. But, as with most things with Rubio, it's hard to predict what he'll do.
For the first time in recent history, Gelber's party gained a net of eight seats in the Florida House. And that means the party finally gained power, rather than losing it. While the candidates get the ultimate credit, Gelber's strategic influence is undeniable.
Gelber led Democrats by being both quote-machine statesman, courtroom strategist and back-bench bomb-thrower. His biggest stunt this past session: grinding proceedings in the Florida House to a 16-hour trickle of parliamentary one-upsmanship just to show Republicans that Democrats felt they were being unfairly muzzled. Gelber's maneuver temporarily set him at odds with his friend, House Speaker Marco Rubio, who seemed betrayed and bewildered by the Democrats' power play.
Gelber paid the price for being the minority party's leader this election year -- nearly all of his bills were killed. But for a man accustomed to picking his battles, the losses came as no surprise and he'll try to turn the policy losses into political wins.
Gelber is running to replace Gwen Margolis in the state Senate in November.
From one-time Senate President to silent elder stateswoman, Margolis' lawmaking career, which stretches back to 1974, has mirrored the rise and fall of the Democratic Party in Florida.
Margolis ran the Senate from 1990-92, just a few years before Democrats lost control of the Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. When she returned to the chamber in 2002, Margolis sat in a back seat and said little.
But the imprint of the iron-willed women's-rights advocate left its mark. In a going-away speech, the de facto co-president of the Senate, Republican Lisa Carlton of Osprey, thanked Margolis for showing her and the state that a woman can run the legislative show.
Margolis is leaving office not due to term limits, but to run for Miami-Dade property appraiser.
Don't let the fun and flashy head wraps and garments fool you, this former Miami principal is all business on the House floor.
Bendross-Mindingall devoted years to the South Florida Democrats' effort to change the state's emphsasis on the FCAT exam, but in the end they had to accept a Republican plan that didn't go as far as they wanted.
She also retires from the House with two big pieces of legislation to her name: the expansion of the Jessie Trice Cancer Prevention project to stop lung cancer and the creation of Magic City Children's Zones, approved this year, to help inner-city kids with schooling.