Senate Democrats Sue Florida House Over Abrupt Session End

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News Release: Florida House of Representatives
April 30, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- House Speaker Steve Crisafulli has issued a memo to the House members in response to the lawsuit filed by Democrats in the Florida Senate. It reads:

On April 28th, the House of Representatives adjourned Sine Die. As you may have heard, 13 Senate Democrat members filed a lawsuit asking the Florida Supreme Court to tell our Chamber to reconvene.
We strongly disagree with the arguments that were filed by 13 Democrat members of the Senate and believe that the House’s actions complied with the Constitution and the historic practices of both Chambers...

"Accordingly, I have no plans to ask you to return to Tallahassee at this time. I look forward to filing our response tomorrow and will provide you with an electronic copy."

By: Associated Press
April 30, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Democrats in the Florida Senate are suing the Florida House over the abrupt end of this year's annual session.

The House adjourned earlier in the week due to a disagreement with the Senate over health care spending and Medicaid expansion. The session was scheduled to end Friday.

Democrats want the Florida Supreme Court to order House members back for the final day. Democrats maintain House leaders violated the state constitution by leaving early.

The constitution reads that neither chamber can adjourn for more than 72 hours without an agreement between the House and Senate.

Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner called the departure of House members "unacceptable." She said Democrats filed the emergency petition to make sure that similar actions are not taken in the future.

State legislators are ending their regular session without passing a new state budget.

Senate President Andy Gardiner has proposed legislators return in June.

The Florida House is asked to respond to the Supreme Court by 10 a.m. tomorrow. See attached document titled 'Supreme Court Order.'

News Release: Florida Senate Democratic Office
April 30, 2015

House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford made the following statement on Senate Democrats' petition:

“House Democrats fully support a swift and responsible resolution to both the impasse that has deadlocked the Legislature and the constitutional questions surrounding Speaker Crisafulli’s decision to adjourn sine die.

“For this reason, we stand behind Senate Democrats and the members who filed an emergency petition with the Florida Supreme Court this afternoon. The constitutional questions must be resolved.

“Our focus remains on doing what’s best for the people of Florida. To the extent President Gardiner’s proposed call for special session and the request for the court to compel action promotes movement to a solution, we applaud those efforts.

“House Democrats remain ready on what should have been the 59th day of the legislative session to do the work voters sent us here to do.”

News Release: Florida Senate Democratic Office
April 30, 2015

TALLAHASSEE – Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa), and the Senate Democratic Caucus this afternoon are filing a Writ of Mandamus with the Florida Supreme Court. The Senate Democrats are asking the Justices to deliver an expedited ruling on whether the House of Representatives violated the state Constitution earlier this week by its motion to unilaterally adjourn, sine die, without prior notice.

Leader Joyner and members of the Caucus are currently walking from the Senate Office Building to the Clerk of the Supreme Court to ensure that the documents have been received. They will be available for comment to the media at that time (steps of the Supreme Court, 500 South Duval Street, Tallahassee).

By: Matt Galka
April 29, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Signs pointed towards the Florida Senate ending session today after the Florida House quit yesterday, but that’s not the case. Florida isn’t any closer to a budget with two chambers clearly at odds.

The end of the 2015 legislative session is playing out more like a soap opera than a ceremony. As the Capitol Turns continued Wednesday, with Senators taking jabs at the chamber that quit over a Medicaid money standoff.

“American workers work hard, they would never quit and go home early, and this bill is a testament to that fact,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) while zinging the House during a floor speech on a bill that would require state and local governments to buy flags made in the USA.

Pensacola Republican Greg Evers took it a step farther.

“They didn’t complete their work, if I had an employee like that, I would fire them,” he said.

The House was rowdy yesterday when they decided to call it a session, but the chamber sat quiet Wednesday.

House Democrats held a caucus meeting and developed a plan
“I’m fully concentrating on healthcare expansion, that’s our jobs,” said Minority Leader Rep. Mark Pafford.

Many House Republicans didn’t come to the building at all.

With the House it quitting early it left many Senators with bills still in play in positions they didn’t want to be in.

Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs) revenge porn bill – which would criminalize posting intimate pictures of someone without their permission – passed, but not the way he wanted. But if he wanted it to become a law, he had no choice.

“It does give us something, it certainly doesn’t give us what we need, or what the people of Florida deserve,” said Simmons.

The Senate adjourned Wednesday around 3 p.m. but not for the year. They called on the House to reconvene before Friday – the scheduled end to session. The House Speaker already said no.

Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli sent a letter to the Senate President late Wednesday afternoon reiterating his chamber’s opposition to expanding Medicaid, and said he was ready to work on a budget for the state during a Special Session. The Senate says they would be willing to come back to finish up work before the week ends.

By: Associated Press
April 29, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida state senators are contending that the House decision to abruptly shut down their work this week violates the state's constitution.

Senate President Andy Gardiner sent a letter to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli on Wednesday that asked the House to come back to the Capitol. The session was scheduled to end on May 1.

Gardiner's letter called the decision by the House to adjourn three and a half days early "unprecedented."

The House abruptly stopped work because of an ongoing stalemate over the budget and health care.

A Crisafulli spokesman says the House has no plans to return.

Crisafulli sent his own letter to Gardiner that said no chamber can "dictate" what legislation should be passed. He said he still wants to work out a budget deal.

Senate Republicans said they may take their legal argument to the state Supreme Court.

By: Edan Schultz
April 28, 2015

Tallahassee -- It was a historic moment for the Florida legislature Tuesday afternoon. But not in a good way.

For the first time in nearly 40 years, one chamber adjourned without the other.

The House wrapped up its annual session and sent lawmakers home three days early because of a budget stalemate with the Senate.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said his members had done all they could and felt it was best to return later with a clean slate.

The move was unexpected, even among many lawmakers.

"I was surprised, I think, like a lot of the members," said republican Rep. Halsey Beshears of Monticello.

"We're now in extraordinary posture," remarked democratic Rep. Alan Williams of Tallahassee.

The adjournment came three days ahead of schedule, and with no budget deal in place.

Republicans in the two chambers are at odds over healthcare funding. They also disagree on who's to blame for the deadlock.

"We sent them multiple offers last week they were not willing to negotiate. We made legitimate offers. They didn't counter with anything reasonable," house speaker pro tempore Matt Hudson told us after the house adjourned.

Later, Senate President Andy Gardiner accused the House of refusing to cooperate.

"I think we have offered many times to get together and try to come up with solutions," Gardiner said.

Senate leaders want to expand Medicaid and take advantage of its federal funding provided through Obamacare.

House leaders adamantly oppose that, and want only to continue the federal Low Income Pool funding, also known as LIP.

The state has been in negotiations with the federal government to continue LIP, which is set to expire in June. Federal administrators have suggested that LIP funding could be tied to whether Florida agrees to expand Medicaid.

Governor Rick Scott supports the House and is suing the federal government for connecting LIP funding to Medicaid.

Beshears says he supports the House speaker but there has to be compromise.

"We have to find a way to tackle this budget thing, accept Medicaid or continue to deny," said Beshears.

The early adjournment means many pieces of legislation, worked on all spring, will die.

"They left the people of Florida in a ditch," said republican Sen. Greg Evers of Baker.

"It's a stunt. It's a bad stunt, and I don't think it's going to have good results," responded democratic Rep. Dwight Dudley of St. Petersburg.

Senate President Andy Gardiner said he feels bad for the many people who've traveled to Tallahassee and worked very hard to pass legislation.

"When you look at the amount of good policy that's going to fall off the table that's just unfortunate," said Gardiner, "The House didn't win, the Senate didn't win, the taxpayers of state of Florida lost."

Lawmakers were not clear Tuesday on the next step in the budget negotiations or when a special session will be held to complete the job.

Several said they expect house and senate leaders will get together and talk about a compromise, maybe even form a special bipartisan committee to come up with a plan.

The new budget year starts July 1. The budget is the only legislation that Florida lawmakers are required to pass under the state constitution.

News Release: Fla. House of Representatives Dem. Office
April 28, 2015

TALLAHASSEE — House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford issued the following statement today after the Republican leadership adjourned the regular session three days early.

“We’re here, ready to work, ready to do the people’s business as they expect us to do.

“This action focuses the discussion. Now, the only thing we have to do is the budget. A debate on expanding Medicaid is essential to that work. Florida House Democrats happen to agree with the Legislature’s own experts who say Medicaid expansion is responsible and sustainable.

“I respect the speaker’s decision as his own to make, but I surely am ready to do the job I was sent here to do. It’s clear Gov. Scott has shown zero leadership and has only served to make things worse. I hope Speaker Crisafulli and President Gardiner will work together to come up with a special session call that represents the interests of the people of Florida. We don’t need Gov. Scott, never elected by a majority, to set the agenda for our Legislature.

“So, here we are. Our caucus stands ready to work, as we have for three years, on a bipartisan solution. Let’s do our best for the people of Florida.”

By: WCTV Eyewitness News / Associated Press
April 28, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Florida House of Representatives has adjourned Sine Die, cutting short a session that was scheduled to end Friday.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said Tuesday afternoon that his members had done all they could and felt it was best to return later with a clean slate.

The House has been adamantly opposed to expanding Medicaid to more than 800,000 Floridians, even though the Senate has proposed a plan that would allow the state to eventually privatize Medicaid and require recipients to work or attend school.

Florida's Medicaid expansion fight also extends to a $1 billion pot of federal money that helps hospitals that treat Medicaid and uninsured patients. The Obama administration has signaled they are unlikely to extend the hospitals funds if the state doesn't expand Medicaid.

Gov. Rick Scott says he's suing the federal government over the issue.

Crisafulli (R - Merritt Island) issued the following statement after the session was adjourned:

I want to thank the Florida House for their commitment to the 2015 Work Plan joint agenda with the Senate. The Florida House passed legislation that covered every principle in the joint plan.

During session, the House worked tirelessly to implement the Work Plan developed in partnership with the Senate to pave a stronger future for Florida families.

Together, the Florida House passed bills to cut taxes by $690 million, create a comprehensive water policy bill, establish a transparent structure for Amendment 1 funding, reduce student testing while maintaining accountability (signed into law), lower tuition, strengthen families by promoting adoptions (on the Governor’s desk), and secure pathways to economic independence for persons with disabilities. I firmly believe that each of these bills will greatly benefit Floridians.

Despite our differences on Medicaid expansion, it is noteworthy that the House and Senate appear to have found common ground on long contentious issues such as PSC reform, ALF reform, comprehensive Department of Corrections reform, mental health reform, and Grandparents’ Rights (sent to the Governor).

We look forward to returning to Tallahassee for a special session to complete our work on the budget prior to the July 1 deadline.

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