From spittoons to phone-booth-like, sound-proof “pods” for FL senators

Pods
Phone-booth-like, sound-proof “pods” at the back of the FL Senate chamber

More than lawmaking occurs on the floor of the Florida Senate. And over time, the institution has had to accommodate the needs and lifestyles of its members.

In the 1957 session, that accommodation included the use of brass spittoons.

A photo from the state archives shows a stack of freshly polished spittoons under a table on the Senate floor ready to be deployed.

Spittoons
Polished spittoons for FL state senators in the 1950s, from state archives

The spittoons have long been relegated to history — they provided a receptacle for users of chewing or dipping tobacco to spit into. But the Senate continues to find ways to accommodate its members.

In the latest innovation, Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, approved the installation of three phone-booth-like, sound-proof “pods” in a small room at the back of the chamber.

The pods include 10-millimeter, tempered glass, with a hardwood trim. Inside is a small desk, a whiteboard, a power outlet, LED lighting, a two-fan ventilation system and a “high quality upholstered seat with (an) ergonomic backrest,” according to the manufacturer.

The three pods will allow senators to come off the Senate floor and have a place to talk privately on their phones, recharge their phones or work on their laptops. They can conduct their conversations without interfering with the activity on the Senate floor.

The pods are really an extension of the “bubble” rooms in the back of the chamber. For years, senators have used the “bubble” to conduct conversations or make phone calls, without disrupting activities on the Senate floor.

With the senators considered part-time legislators, several members “had expressed concern about just trying to keep up with the flow of (their non-legislative) work” while they were on the Senate floor, said Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Galvano.

“Sometimes that contributes to the noise level on the floor and the president thought this would be a good solution because multiple senators can utilize this meeting space to make calls at the same time,” she said.

The Senate has had only one floor session in the 2019 session, but Betta said the pods have drawn “a positive reaction” from members.

The three pods cost $30,500 to install, she said.

Lloyd Dunkelberger
Lloyd Dunkelberger has been covering Florida government for over three decades. He’s reported and edited in Tallahassee for the New York Times Regional Newspapers group, Florida Politics, and the News Service of Florida. He grew up in Jacksonville and Palm Beach County and got his journalism degree at the University of Florida.

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