The bipartisan election bill passed the Florida House on the first day of the legislative session has yet to pass the Florida Legislature on the last day -- in great part due to a dispute over a plan to punish some election supervisors deemed "non-compliant."
The Senate inserted the language at the urging of Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a critic of the way Miami-Dade election supervisor Penelope Townsley handled her job last fall.
The provision allows a Secretary of State to impose penalties, including a partial loss of pay, for failing to follow election rules or competently manage an election. After three years of being deemed "noncompliant" an election supervisor can be recommended for removal from office by the governor.
But the House, and the state's election supervisors, don't like the language in part because the state can punish incompetent election supervisors now and nearly all election supervisors are elected and accountable to the voters.
So the House plans to strip out the measure Friday. But they might give the Senate a compromise proposal that would punish appointed election supervisors. There's only one of the 67 in the state: Townsley.
"We think it’s a little bit punitive. It’s one thing if you’re an appointed election supervisor. I think you may see some language in the House that reflects that," said House Speaker Will Weatherford.
"But as far as an elected supervisor and having the ability to punish them from the Secretary of State’s Office, I don’t think the Florida House likes that position," he said. "I would imagine that would probably come out of the bill."
Meantime, Diaz de la Portilla said he's working on proposing a Miami-Dade county charter change to make the post an elected position.
Weatherford's feeling about the language is shared by Senate President Don Gaetz. He predicted the bill would probably pass. So did Weatherford.
"On the very first day of session, we passed out a bipartisan elections bill," Weatherford said. "Our hope is that on the last day of session, we are able to pass out a bipartisan elections bill."