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Senate president proposes a three-week special session in June

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Senate President Andy Gardiner wants to schedule three weeks in June for a special session to write a state budget.

Gardiner wrote to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli Thursday, thanking the speaker for a prompt response to his previous letter and acknowledging the House’s intention not to return to Tallahassee prior to the scheduled expiration of the 2015 regular session.

“For this reason, I have enclosed a draft call for a special session of the Florida Legislature to begin on June 1, 2015, and to conclude on June 20, 2015.”

Gardiner proposes the special session focus on the budget and “similar bills.”

Crisafulli adjourned the House Tuesday, an unprecedented move for one chamber to leave the Capitol unilaterally with three days left on the session’s calendar. The House and Senate are stalemated over a Senate healthcare proposal.

Crisafulli is expected to respond to Gardiner’s letter shortly.

Here’s the text of Gardiner’s letter to the Speaker.

Mr. Speaker:

Thank you for your prompt response to the Senate’s request that the House of Representatives reconvene to continue the exchange of legislative work product contemplated by our constitution.

While the Senate maintains its belief that the House’s adjournment sine die clearly violates both the spirit and letter of our constitutional principles, the House has clearly indicated it has no intention of reconvening prior to the scheduled expiration of the 2015 Regular Session at 11:59 p.m. on May 1. For this reason, I have enclosed a draft call for a special session of the Florida Legislature to begin on June 1, 2015, and to conclude on June 20, 2015.

The Senate hopes to complete our budget work as soon as possible. Given the stark differences between the House and Senate approaches to health care funding and coverage, we believe clear guidance from the federal government is crucial regarding funding for services to the uninsured which hospitals across our state are legally required to provide regardless of compensation. Beginning our special session on June 1 will provide additional time to receive a response from the federal government and we can conclude with ample time for Governor Scott to review the budget prior to June 30.

While a federal response would clearly be most beneficial to the furtherance of negotiations, I believe it is prudent to continue to account for the potential of a complete elimination of Low Income Pool funding. In fact, the Senate Budget, unanimously passed nearly a month ago, left unallocated sufficient recurring general revenue dedicated to health care contingencies.

For the last three years our chambers have had, and continue to maintain, significant policy differences relating to health care coverage for uninsured Floridians. Last Friday, the House indicated a willingness to move from your initial offer of $200 million closer to the Senate position. As indicated in our response to House Offer #2 last Friday, the Senate remains open to reviewing a spreadsheet offer that reflects this position at your earliest convenience.

Again, given the severity of these issues, I believe an agreement to begin a special session on June 1 will provide the Legislature the maximum flexibility to complete our work on the 2015-16 General Appropriations Act in an efficient and transparent manner. With an initial agreement on a call for special session, we can then begin to discuss a specific schedule that would allow us to inform our respective chambers of when their presence in Tallahassee will be required. I look forward to your response to this important and time sensitive matter.

Respectfully,

Andy Gardiner

President

Cc: The Honorable Rick Scott, Governor

 

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