On Friday night, the Florida Legislature adjourned its yearly 60-day regular session, after lawmakers approved a record $77.1 billion spending plan.
The state’s largest budget (in raw dollars) is now with Gov. Rick Scott for approval.
While a few observers noted that Sine Die 2014 adjournment was “the quietest in 20 years,” that should not be taken as lack of excitement — or absence of nail-biting anticipation.
In this video, also available on YouTube, the last hour of the last day of session still is the time “where bills live or die,” says Tony Carvalho of Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.
“Once they Sine Die,” Carvalho adds, “You have to wait a whole year to come back before something passes.”
Keith Arnold, of the national legal and advocacy firm of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, likened it to gladiators of ancient Rome.
“It’s part of the theater,” Arnold says.
Among the last items on the agenda included the provocative plan to legalize a medical marijuana-extract known as “Charlotte’s Web,” a liquid used to treat patients suffering from epileptic seizures.
The Senate gave its final approval to the bill on Friday, with Scott saying the day before he would sign it.
Scott will also put his signature on a carefully crafted bill allowing in-state tuition to all qualifying Florida students, including children of undocumented immigrants.
Again, on the last day, the Florida House approved the measure and sent it to Scott for signing.
Then, at 10:40 p.m., the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms dropped the ceremonial handkerchiefs, giving exhausted legislators and lobbyists – as well as a few entertained spectators – a final show in the rotunda of the Capitol.
Although all in attendance left happy and satisfied with a job well-done, they certainly would have rather it ended just a bit sooner, something that could have happened Friday if not for the constitutionally mandated 72-hour waiting period before lawmakers were allowed to cast votes on the final budget for 2014-2015. It guaranteed session would into the night, or possibly into the morning.
But 10:40 p.m. it was.
Regardless of the moment Sine Die officially took place, all involved are now returning to their home districts, confident in the knowledge that they truly performed “the people’s business.”