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Senate President calls Florida House to come back to finish out session

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A day after House Speaker Steve Crisafulli stunned Tallahassee by announcing that he was adjourning the House of Representatives three days earlier, leaving unresolved the state’s budget impasse with the Senate and a slew of unfinished bills, Senate President Andy Gardiner responded, calling on Crisafulli to bring the House back into session by this Friday afternoon.

In a letter sent to Crisafulli, Gardiner quotes Article III, section 3 of the Florida Constitution, which states: “Neither house shall adjourn for more than seventy-two consecutive hours except pursuant to concurrent resolution.”

Speaking to the press afterwards,  Gardiner says it’s a very important constitutional question to ask, but he refused to say whether they would go to court to compel the House to return.

(UPDATE: Crisafulli responds).

Here is the letter he sent to Crisafulli:

Mr. Speaker,

On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, you adjourned the Florida House of Representatives in contravention of express provisions of the Florida Constitution.  Accordingly, I respectfully request that you reconvene your chamber to finish the important work of the people of Florida.

Article III, section 3 of the Florida Constitution, plainly states: “Neither house shall adjourn for more than seventy-two consecutive hours except pursuant to concurrent resolution.”  Further support for this reading is found in the following subsection of Article III, section 3, granting the Governor the authority to adjourn a session, including the adjournment sine die.  This framework, modeled after the United States Constitution, sets up a constitutional framework encouraging cooperation between our chambers and designating the Governor to resolve disputes when our chambers cannot agree on a time to adjourn.

This constitutional parliamentary requirement could not be clearer and trumps our own respective chamber’s parliamentary rules.  The course of action you have taken is not only unconstitutional; it is unprecedented under our present state constitution.  In fact, the last time there was a disagreement between the chambers on when to adjourn, it was resolved by Governor LeRoy Collins in 1956.

While our current parliamentary practices may gloss over this requirement where consent of the other chamber is taken for granted, such consent should never be assumed, particularly where one chamber transmits their bills and abruptly adjourns more than three days early in the 60 day regular session, effectively depriving the other chamber of providing meaningful legislative consent and dialogue.

Your own rules do not support the unilateral actions you have taken.  House Rule 13.1 cites Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure as highly influential in interpreting the House’s rules.  Section 204-3 of Mason’s provides “[n]either the senate nor the house can constitutionally adjourn sine die without the other.”

The Senate will remain available to conduct business upon the call of the President until the scheduled expiration of the 2015 Regular Session at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, May 1, 2015.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this critical constitutional issue.

Respectfully,

Andy Gardiner, President

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at [email protected]

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