News from Tallahassee - Week of April 29, 2015

Budget Impasse and an early end to the House’s Legislative Session

FLORIDA – April 29, 2015 - At 1:15 PM on Tuesday, April 28, the Florida House of Representatives adjourned when Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) declared the House and Senate were at an impasse over the budget – ending the House’s 2015 Regular Session a little more than three days early.

The House adjournment came as a surprise to the members of the Florida Senate and to some members of the House of Representatives as well, according to press reports. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the decision to adjourn early was known only to some of the House leadership, and took some Republican members of the House by surprise.

A four-page document on the early adjournment, the issues involved, and the outlook for a special session prepared by the House Majority Office was ready for distribution when the session ended. You can view and download a copy of the document by clicking here.

Only one education bill - HB 7069 - passed both the House and the Senate and was signed by Governor Scott into law. The bill limits testing. According the Tampa Bay Times, “School districts across the state are now taking advantage of the measure, cutting local tests and changing their first day of classes…”

Impact of the House Adjournment on Bills

All hope for passage of any policy bills now rests with the Florida Senate. The Senate could consider any of the approximately 50 bills it has received from the House. However, this also means the Senate must approve the bills exactly as sent over from the House and cannot amend/change them. If the Senate were to add an amendment to a bill that has already passed the House, it would effectively kill the measure because the House is no longer present to vote on any Senate amendments. The reverse is also true. If the House has sent a bill back to the Senate with amendments, the Senate must accept all of the House amendments in order to pass the bill. Failing that, the bill would die. Without the ability to offer amendments, many Senators may not find their House companion bills palatable and may refuse to even consider them on the floor of the Senate.

There has been speculation that the Senate could adjourn, “Sine Die”, on Thursday of this week and might only act on those bill scheduled for Third Reading. The Senate could also waive its rules and take up some bills and pass them, unchanged, before it adjourns. What the Senate will ultimately do on any of these bills remains to be seen.

Impact on Charter School Bills

There are three charter school bills that we have been working and following closely this session:

HB7037 was passed by the House several weeks ago and has been sitting in messages to the Senate for some time. It began as a Proposed Committee Bill in the House Choice & Innovation Subcommittee and as such does not have a Senate companion. This bill also contains language that requires school districts to share some of their millage revenue with charter schools for capital outlay. This element has no support in the Senate, which means this bill will die in messages since the Senate would not agree to pass this in its present form without amendments.

SB1552 is on the Senate’s Special Order Calendar for Second Reading on Thursday, but it is unclear if the Senate will be in session after today to take up that bill on Second Reading.

HB1145 has passed the House and is currently in messages to the Senate. The Senate could decide to take up this bill, waive the rules and pass HB1145 in its present form during the session on Wednesday, effectively replacing SB1552 with it. 

While SB1552 and HB1145 are similar, they are not identical. It is not clear if the Senate has enough appetite for the similar language in the bills to warrant passing HB1145.

The FCPCS Advocacy Team will be closely monitoring the Senate’s activities until it adjourns.

# # #