The Florida Legislature ended the 2015 Session most unusually. Not since 1972 have the Senate and House of Representatives adjourned on different days. From the Latin ‘sine die’ or ‘without day,’ the chambers have adjourned a few hours apart in past years, but certainly not several days.
On Tuesday, April 28th, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) abruptly adjourned his chamber, saying the budget discussions had stalled and would unlikely be resolved by the scheduled end of May 1st. The Senate continued their business on Tuesday and Wednesday and remained at the call of President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) to reconvene as necessary. On Wednesday, April 29th, President Gardiner sent a pointed letter to Speaker Crisafulli asking the House to reconvene and complete the work of the regular session. He cited potential violations of the Florida Constitution as a reason for his request. Speaker Crisafulli quickly responded in writing that the House would not reconvene and questioned why the Senate did not make healthcare funding and Medicaid expansion a priority prior to the start of session.
On Thursday, the Senate Democratic Caucus filed a writ of mandamus with the Florida Supreme Court to determine if the Florida House violated the State Constitution by unilaterally adjourning on Tuesday. The Court ruled on a 5-2 vote last Friday afternoon that the House did indeed violate the Florida Constitution by adjourning early. However, the ruling also denied the motion to force the House back in session to complete work. The Court reasoned the regular session was scheduled to end at midnight Friday and to issue the writ, as requested, would not be practical.
Many bills died as the two chambers were not present to conduct business on behalf of the citizens of Florida. We have outlined some of the key items in this edition of our e-newsletter. Some of the bills passed both the House and Senate and will be sent to Governor Rick Scott for final action. Others died on the calendar because of this impasse. Interestingly, about the same number of bills successfully passed both chambers – 231 – compared to previous years.
The Legislature is tentatively set to reconvene for a special session June 1st – 20th to finish crafting its budget for the upcoming fiscal year. It must include a solution to fund the Low Income Pool, which provides healthcare for Florida’s underinsured and uninsured populations.