I have more information. From testing, I can see that the session does work within the same request. However, I am losing all my session variables between requests.
Sessions work for an admin portion of the website.
The session id is not changing, so I guess that means the cookie is working ok.
Session gc_maxlifetime is the default, 1440.
The save_path is the same and working as for the admin side.
I feel as though the solution is staring at me but I can't see it at the moment.