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Five minutes with Ron Book: sausage making, dead bills and special session

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Lobbyist Ron Book sat, head in hand, in the Capitol rotunda Wednesday morning.

He just observed the Senate grind through an agenda of bills sent over from the House before it unexpectedly adjourned the day before, only three days away from the scheduled end of session.

Book has been around the Capitol for a while. His over 40-year career started by working for the House, then in the Cabinet of former Gov. Bob Graham as legislative counsel and, for a time, as acting chief of staff.

This year is his 42nd session, he says.

Book watched the Senate conclude its business to make sure that bills had been T-pd, died. But his thoughts appear to be elsewhere. How does he explain a dysfunctional Legislature to his clients and why their bills died when the House made an unprecedented move when the House informed the Senate in a voice mail message it was done, leaving town and effectively blowing up the session.

Florida Politics spent five minutes with Book on Wednesday morning.

Q: That’s the longest face I’ve seen in the Capitol this morning. What are you thinking?

Book: I’m sort of aggravated at the situation. You come here to get your work done in 60 days. You have clients you are trying to get things accomplished for and when you got to go home and explain to them due to some intra-party stuff that things did not get accomplished; it is hard to try to make people who don’t do this understand.

You can make light of it by talking about sausage making and how unattractive that process is and liking it to passing laws but in reality people try to encourage their government to do things and in this case it broke down.

It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating to them (gesturing to the Senate). To go home early at the end of the day and you’re still trying to get stuff done.

We’re here because we have a couple of things we think are going to get sent down stairs today that are on the message list. We want to make sure that the things they said they were going to T-pd are really going to stay on the T-pd list and not taken up.

You got to be here. People who are not filling these halls aren’t really; I’m not sure doing what they should be doing to make sure their clients’ interests are protected.

Q: Why is it important to keep an eye on the T-pd list?

Book: Minds can change and while yesterday they said they were going to T-pd certain things they could decide to take up a House bill that may be sitting in messages and didn’t intend to pick up yesterday and send it downstairs.

They took some stuff off the special order calendar. I’ve been around here long enough to know sometimes they create pocket calendars and they add some things that weren’t necessarily on the agenda.

So, you want to be present and you want to make sure that you are paying attention to what’s going on.

Q: You want to make sure the dead bills, those that have been T-pd, are not resurrected?

Book: Everything that is either T-pd or in messages that doesn’t get taken up and sent to the governor today dies when they sine die. It will all be dead, done, finished.

Then the only way to get something done is to have it added to the call of the special session.

I’ve been here a long time. Special sessions are generally very limited calls for a lot of different reasons. I would expect this one to be limited to budget and tax related things. And, conforming and implementing bills that are intended to be directly related to the budget.

I think there are a lot of wishful thinkers who think they can apply pressure on the presiding officers and or the governor to add things to the call but I’m not sure there is anything that’s substantive that the chambers feel is that large of a priority that they would add outside of the budget and tax-related issues.

Q: The budget touches almost everything. Does that open any parliamentary procedures to save some bills that died yesterday and mend the House-Senate relationship?

Book: I would expect them to go home for some period of time to allow some cooling off to occur in hopes of finding ways to put their differences aside and come up with an agenda that they will work on to accomplish a passage of somewhere between $77 billion and $80 billion budget and issues that will ultimately contained in that budget.

You can’t do a continuing budget resolution. This isn’t Washington, D.C., and we don’t want to look like Washington, D.C. Could they go in and adopt the 2013-2014 budget as the 2015-2016 budget. Well, there’s nothing legally or constitutionally to stop them but unless you solve the LIP issue, unless you figure out how you are going to fund that gap in healthcare delivery I don’t know how you are going to do that.

I’m not sure they want to come back in after setting a goal of having the largest per-pupil funding in the history of our state they want to come in and do a continuation and we’re back to where we were last year.

I could be wrong, but I guess we’ll see.

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