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Bills dying en masse as House adjourns Sine Die

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Former Senate Democratic leader state Sen. Chris Smith debated on the Senate floor against SB 284, a private property rights enhancement bill, telling his colleagues — coyly at first — “It’s hard to argue against a bill with so many House co-sponsors,” and later, more directly, “I mean, if we want to send a message…”

It was the House that sent the first big gestural message of the day, “taking its ball and going home” in the phrase of Senate Appropriations Chair Tom Lee, when it adjourned Sine Die early Tuesday afternoon.

The bill in question passed the Senate and will head to the governor’s office — but many others won’t.

During a Senate session that endured as House members walked off Capitol Hill and was capped by an impassioned rhetorical rejoinder by President Andy Gardiner, the people’s business continued to move — or more often, came to a rest — before the upper chamber, too, took a less final recess.

Gardiner bemoaned the untimely demise of several bills in his speech and in remarks afterward. Several more also met almost certain death. Here’s a quick look at a handful.

Water legislation

State Sen. Charlie Dean‘s massive water legislation package — SB 618 — will no longer see adoption into state law this year, in a session that was purported to be a landmark year for water policy.

Speaker Steve Crisafulli made Amendment 1 implementation a signature issue, while his agricultural bona fides were supposed to make him the man for the season. With a bang of his gavel, state policy on large swaths of water issues will remain in limbo until next year.

Corrections system reforms

A bill spearheaded by state Sen. Greg Evers to increase state oversight over Florida’s embattled Department of Corrections also died this afternoon.

Evers memorably led a hands-on investigation of the system’s recent issues, dropping in on a selection of troubled prisons and drafting a bill that would create an independent watchdog board to check the correctional facilities. Except now, it won’t.

Aid for persons with unique abilities

A Senate-driven package of bills to stimulate the growth of jobs and encourage college enrollment for mentally and physically disabled Floridians also appears it will end up on the cutting room floor.

SB 7030 to estalish “new postsecondary designation for programs serving students with disabilities,” SB 602 to increase state funding of Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts and SB 7022 to improve financial literacy education for adults with unique abilities were all already on the bubble, but now are almost certainly done for in 2015.

Uber/ride sharing

The Florida Limousine Association’s Rick Versace claimed victory today, saying that by taking their leave and refusing to hear state Rep. Matt Gaetz’s HB 817 and other potential boons to the legal stability of Uber, legislators “placed consumer protection above any other priority in rejecting a bad bill that could have become a dangerous law.”

No matter how you slice it, however, talks between ride-sharing advocates and traditional taxi cab and livery services are now off.

Healthcare expansion

This might be stating the obvious, but any chance that the Senate’s FHIX plan had of convincing House members to help their counterparts find a “Florida solution” for accepting federal Medicare expansion is now no longer just on life support — it’s all the way dead.

Low Income Pool money is another story — Gov. Rick Scott just announced he is officially filing suit against the feds to get that money back into state coffers — but that looks just about doomed for now as well.

Gaming

Just a few days ago, some in the lobby corps noted the irony that the Legislature could well be in posture to pass House Majority Leader Dana Young‘s ambitious gaming legislation, but not a budget.

That brief footnote to history is now washed away completely, as the House will take all likelihood of a gambling expansion plan, Destination Resort-style casinos — and even the less controversial Seminole Indian Gaming pact — out of town with them as they fly back or drive back to their districts.

Jet fuel tax exemptions

After a long, hard slog of a fight between major “legacy” airlines like United Airways and Delta and smaller carriers like Southwest and JetBlue, compromise language that seemed to make each side only slightly disappointed seemed to have taken shape in state Sen. Anitere Flores’ SB 722.

That bill, now in Senate Appropriations, will remain grounded until the next time around.

Powdered alcohol

An issue that got a surprising level of burn this session, a pair of bills to ban the sale of powdered alcohol, or “palcohol” in industry lingo, is now awash in legislative inertia — having bitten the dust as HB 1247 by state Rep. Bryan Avila lies stuck on the House Special Order Calendar.

Event ticketing retailers

A major legislative battle between Ticketmaster and basically everyone else in the ticket resale business will also go unresolved this session.

RPOF Chairman and state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia got his version of a bill to tighten restrictions on ticket retailers as far as second reading before the full House, but it now appears to be stillborn. The Senate companion is stuck in Senate Appropriations, which likely will not meet before Friday as the point is essentially moot.

Hydraulic fracturing/’fracking’

The House passed its version of a bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing in Florida, HB 1205 by state Reps. Ray Rodrigues and Cary Pigman, but post-session comments from senators leads one to believe they are in no hurry to accommodate any House bills that require their approval.

The controversial bill appears to be headed for the ash heap of lawmaking history, for now at least.

Guardianship reform

State Sen. Nancy Detert of Venice is now calling her SB 1226 a “casualty of the war.” The bill to smooth the road for children with elderly parents who sometimes become ensnared in a legally complex battle of powers of attorney is now bereft of a procedural way forward.

The ‘Care for Retired Law Enforcement Dogs Program Act’

We could go on for much longer about the wake of legislative destruction the House’s abrupt adjournment has wrought, and we will in the coming days, but here is one example of a slam-dunk proposal that’s now gone with the wind.

State Sen. Joe Abruzzo sponsored a Senate bill — which passed 40-0 today and would have almost surely have passed the House in similar fashion — to allocate $300,000 to enhance the welfare of retired police dogs. But, alas.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at [email protected]

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