Senate President Andy Gardiner conceded Thursday that the House will not be returning to complete the work of the regular session and offered to reconvene in a special budget session June 1 to 20 to focus exclusively on the budget and all "similar bills" that were left incomplete this week when the House abruptly left town.
Gardiner noted that "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."
His proposed agenda for the special session would include only the budget, starting with the Senate's appropriations bill that includes the Florida Health Insurance Exchange program as a replacement for the phasing out of the Low Income Pool.
In an interview early Thursday, Gardiner also said he hoped that House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and he could agree to the dates and scope of the special session, rather than having Gov. Rick Scott call them in before they have reached agreement.
“I do think it would be helpful and productive for the speaker and me to be on the same page,'' Gardiner told The Florida Channel. "There’s nothing worse than the governor to call us back and the chambers come in and there’s still no agreement on the big picture of the budget.
“What would not be productive is a rush to judgment and say we’re coming back immediately, because it doesn’t resolve anything. You still don’t have answers on CMS. You still don’t have answers on how we resolve this issue on the uninsured.”
Meanwhile, despite Gardiner's concession that the session was over, Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and 12 other members of the Senate Democratic Caucus used the day off to walk to the Florida Supreme Court to file a Writ of Mandamus, asking the court to deliver an expedited ruling on whether the House violated the state Constitution when it unilaterally adjourned.
Gardiner told The Florida Channel that while the Senate had no plans to sue this week it wanted to ask the court to weigh in because "for future presiding officers, there really needs to be some clarity...once that becomes the new norm that is really bad for the process."
Gardiner's letter to Crisafulli said the budget call should include:
That the Legislature is convened for the sole and exclusive purpose of considering the following:
a. Legislation similar to Senate Bill 2500, the General Appropriations bill filed during the 2015 Regular Session, including any House amendments thereon;
b. Legislation similar to Senate Bill 2502, the Appropriations Implementing bill filed during the 2015 Regular Session, including any House amendments thereon;
c. Legislation similar to any bill filed during the 2015 Regular Session upon which a Conference Committee had been requested by either chamber and such request had been acceded to by the other house on or before May 1, 2015.
Here's the text of the letter: