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Diaz de la Portilla decries ‘bare knuckle politics’ during PIP debate


Senators John Thrasher, R- St. Augustine, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Coral Gables, Mike Fasano, R- New Port Richey, and Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, huddle on the Senate floor during a tense debate on PIP reform on Tuesday. [Scott Keeler | Times]

There were somewhat familiar fireworks in the Senate Tuesday afternoon as leaders frantically tried to get their colleagues to reverse a decision on a component of personal injury protection, or PIP reform.

Senators initially voted 24-15 to approve an amendment filed by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Coral Gables, that authorized the continued use of attorney fee multipliers in PIP lawsuits. Immediately after that happened, Senate President Mike Haridopolos left the dais for several minutes and conferred with other leaders as onlookers scrambled to figure out what was happening.

Haridopolos and senators John Thrasher, Don Gaetz, Joe Negron, Garrett Richter, JD Alexander and David Simmons scurried to consult one another on the floor and then in a small meeting room known as “the bubble.” When the chamber was called back to order, Gaetz requested for a re-vote on Diaz de la Portilla’s amendment, saying senators didn’t fully understand what they were doing at the time.

Given a second chance to making a closing argument, Diaz de la Portilla said the “bully pulpit” had been used to “mysteriously reconsider the overwhelming vote by which my amendment was adopted.”

“I hope people were not swayed by bare-knuckle politics,” he told his colleagues.

Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said the comments were inappropriate.

“They do have a right to reconsider their vote, that’s under the rules,” Thrasher said of the re-vote.

Although the motion to reconsider was successful, a second vote on Diaz de la Portilla’s amendment had the same outcome, although with two less votes in favor. Both Alexander and Gaetz changed their votes from “yes” to “no.” The final count was 22-18.

It’s become a regular theme in the Senate for the rank-and-file to vote against the wishes of leadership. It happened during the vote prison privatization and with failed efforts to fast-track “parent trigger” and abortion legislation to the floor.

Diaz de la Portilla also tried to clarify his comments later in the meeting, saying they weren’t directed at Haridopolos but forces outside the Senate. “They were clearly not directed at you,” Diaz de la Portilla said.

Though Diaz de la Portilla didn’t specify further, the gallery was once full of lobbyists for various interest groups involved in the PIP debate.

Discussion on SB 1860 will likely continue on Wednesday.