The Florida Legislature, under the leadership of President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) and Speaker Jose Oliva (R-Hialeah), extended its 2020 Session by one week to complete negotiations and pass the budget. The FY 2020-21 General Appropriations Act was placed on members’ desks at 6:55pm on Sunday, March 15th, initiating the 72-hour review period required by the State Constitution.
In response to the novel Coronavirus, the Florida House of Representatives took proactive steps to mitigate risk when members returned to the chamber on Thursday to debate and vote on the budget. Steps included:
- closing the House galleries to all visitors
- encouraging all members of the public and House staffers to watch the proceedings at thefloridachannel.org
- excusing any member from attendance who has symptoms associated with the virus or who meets the criteria for being part of the higher risk population
- encouraging members to travel alone – without their district staffers – and by car instead of plane, and also advising social distancing to protect themselves and others
The Florida Senate also implemented precautions, including:
- allowing members to record their presence and then return to their individual offices
- to minimize time, members had the option to submit a formal statement in lieu of debate
- the chamber would not take up the three bills until they have been received from the House
The Legislature ended the Session on Thursday, March 19th at 1:49pm, without the traditional dropping of the handkerchiefs as part of the ‘sine die’ ceremony. Members unanimously approved the $92.3 billion FY 2020-2021 General Appropriations Act.