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Democrats question Sansom's recusal

Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, is questioning the ability of Ray Sansom to temporarily recuse himself as speaker. In a letter sent today to Rules Chairman Bill Galvano, he writes:

"Based upon my reading of our rules, it is not permitted and his action should be deemed either a nullity or a resignation necessitating an election for a replacement Speaker.

Rule 1.1(a)(1) requires the house to “ choose a permanent presiding officer designated Speaker ”.  Rule 2.5 states that:  ‘ The Speaker pro tempore shall exercise the duties, powers, and prerogatives of the Speaker in the event of the Speaker’s death, illness, removal, or inability to act, until the speaker’s successor is elected . ”

These two rules together mean that the pro tempore only exercises the Speaker’s duties temporarily, until a new Speaker is elected. Since there is no time limit specified, it should be inferred that it would be for a reasonable time.  However, the Speaker pro tempore only assumes this role upon the Speaker’s death, illness, removal, or inability to act.

The first three requirements clearly do not apply. It might be argued that the Speaker has an inability to act, but I would argue that that is not the case. Instead, he might not believe he can be effective or he might want to devote more time to other endeavors, but he certainly has the ability.  As used in the rule, the term “ inability to act ” appears to imply mental incapacity and the parallel of physical illness.

If it were the case that there was an inability to act, we might have interpretation issues regarding who decides whether the inability exists and who decides when the ability returns. The rule contemplates an election of a successor in any event and it clearly contemplates a permanent replacement. Further, since it says “in the event of” and not “during” such inability, this would mean that it would be unclear as to whether the substitution of power could even be temporary.

Regardless, these questions are moot because we do not have not have a case where Speaker Sansom has an inability to act. Perhaps our rules should allow the Speaker to suspend his or her duties for other reasons, but they do not. 

Respectfully, I am asking for your opinion as Rules Chair as I believe the integrity of the Florida House of Representatives demands that we follow our rules.   

Very truly yours,

Jim Waldman

State Representative, District 95