Tallahassee, FL - Republican legislators went to Tallahassee Tuesday with the goal of overriding a handful of vetoes issued by Gov. Charlie Crist last spring.
With very little debate, they have done exactly what they set out to do. Seven of nine bills vetoed by Crist during the regular session were overturned within a matter of minutes.
Two targeted vetoes originally planned for consideration in the special session were taken off the agenda under pressure from Governor-elect Rick Scott and other special interests. Legislators dropped the efforts to overturn vetoes of bills that would have reduced the governor's power over the Department of Management Services and that would have controlled worker's compensation costs to the state.
Two others were never included on today’s list: the SB 6 teacher tenure package and a bill to require women to view an ultrasound before they can get an abortion. Both were very controversial and opposed by moderate Republicans.
Many of the vetoed bills which will now become law are technical in nature, but there is a much larger point that hasn't been lost on anyone.
Traditionally, Florida's newly elected legislators take their oaths and shake a few hands, but this year is different as Republicans now have a veto-proof majority.
By most accounts, House Speaker Dean Cannon is prepared to steamroll over the Democratic minority to get his party's agenda passed.
Cannon disagrees with that characterization.
"I extend a pledge of fairness to members of both parties, but please remember that obstructionism is not the same as dissent and personal attacks are not the same as meaningful debate," Cannon said.
But before the debate about future issues can get underway, Republicans wanted to take care of yesterday's business, including a list of bills vetoed by Crist. That list includes a $10-million grant for the University of Florida's Shands Hospital and a package of agricultural land tax breaks.
State. Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, calls it vindication.
"I still don't understand why he vetoed all those bills," he said. "I had an amendment in one to help our strawberry farmers and other farmers with the freeze protection, giving them tax breaks if they're saving water, the problems we had with water last year, it's in one of those bills."
Still, Democrats like Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, call the override votes politically motivated. After all, Gov. Crist bucked his own party to run as an independent in his failed U.S. Senate bid. Kriseman said Republicans were out for payback.
"If it wasn't about Charlie Crist, then why aren't these issues being brought up during regular session, and if the argument is that these were too important for us to wait, we had a special session in July that these issues could have been brought up in," he said.
The vetoes weren't the only issues lawmakers took up. They also voted to delay mandatory septic tank inspections until July, and another vote will let Florida obtain federal money to pay people who have been waiting for a check under the state's energy-efficient air conditioner rebate program.