New Rule May Trip Up Final Wilson Bill

By: Keith Laing
By: Keith Laing


A new rule in the Florida Senate puts in question the fate of a claims bill for a man whose wife was killed in a medical mistake because the measure’s sponsor is headed to Congress.

Lawmakers in the Florida Senate changed the chamber’s rules this week to ban outgoing senators from filing legislation. Though Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, was running to replace U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who was running for the U.S. Senate, she filed a claims bill for the 2011 session.

The bill (SB 12) would pay Charles Pandrea $608,555 for the death of his wife Janet as a result of the negligence of the part of the North Broward Hospital District.

Pandrea “died on April 2, 2002, in Broward County as a result of the treatment that she received for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a disease that she did not have,” the bill that seeks now to compensate her husband for the loss says. After being misdiagnosed, Pandrea was treated to multiple rounds of chemotherapy, the bill says, “to which she had adverse reactions, which led to multiple complications and her eventual demise.”

Wilson won’t be a senator if the bill comes up for a vote next year.

Leaders said in passing rules for the next two years a senator who leaves the Senate shouldn’t be able to file bill in the first place – though the rule wasn’t in place in August when Wilson filed the measure. She had to file it before she won a crowded Democratic primary – and so didn’t know for sure that she’d be resigning.

To file a bill when one is likely leaving the chamber “doesn’t seem right,” said new Senate Rules Chairman Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, as the rules were taken up. Thrasher doubles until January as head of the Republican Party of Florida.

A spokesman for Senate President Mike Haridopolos said Wednesday the new head of the Florida Senate agreed.

“The (new) rules say if a senator knows they’re not going to be here, they should not be able to file bills,” the spokesman, David Bishop, told the News Service of Florida. “That makes sense.”

Bishop said senators filing bills before leaving office had been a common practice and that Wilson’s bill had not been the impetus for the rules change. But Wilson’s bill would likely be affected, he said, because “she’s been elected to Congress and we understand her resignation will be coming soon.”

The rules do allow a co-sponsor to pick up a departing senator’s bill. Wilson doesn’t have one yet, but she hasn’t resigned from the Senate yet, so that could be a way the bill is carried forward.

The colorful long-time Miami lawmaker has told the News Service that she plans to step down before the end of the year, at which time a special election would be scheduled to replace her.

At least one current state representative, Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, is thinking about running for the seat. Several members of the crowded field Wilson beat to win the Democratic nomination for Congressional District 17 are also expected to consider making a run.

Under the new rules, unless another senator agrees to take her place as the sponsor of the claims bill within seven days of her resignation, the bill will be automatically withdrawn from consideration.

Wilson, who is in Washington, D.C., could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Other rules changes adopted by the Senate during its organizational session include adding two days to the amount of time newly-elected senators can file claims bills and limiting the use of shell bills by tweaking the rules for deleting everything after the enacting clause.

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