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Sen. Tom Lee says Senate planned to ask court to weigh on House exit 'for future'

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said Thursday that the Senate did not expect the House to respond to their call to return to finish the session but plans to ask the Florida Supreme Court to declare the Florida House's actions unconstitutional to assist future legislatures and the "playbook that is developed by pundits."

“I don’t think anybody had any great expectation the house is going to rush back into session but there has been an historical precedential impact of what has taken place here this year,'' he said, in an interview Thursday on The Florida Channel. "As we know, there is a playbook that is developed by all the pundits that watch this process and there will be a time where someone will fantasize about doing this again and we want to make sure that future leaders know the constitutional impact to that.”

Lee suggested that "over the summer" the Senate request a “declaratory statement from the Florida Supreme Court. Not to say who is right or who’s wrong but to send a message to the Legislature about how the Constitution applies in these situations.”

The Senate Democratic caucus may have done the job for him. They filed an emergency order with the court Thursday afternoon and, by the end of the day, the high court had ordered the Florida House to come up with a response by 10 a.m. Friday, which would have been the scheduled end of the regular session. 

Senate President Andy Gardiner, also in an interview on The Florida Channel, also said that the Senate was considering filing a petition to get the court to weigh in on the question. "For future presiding officers, there really needs to be some clarity,'' he said.

He said that if ending early "becomes kind of the new norm that is really bad for the process,'' he said. "Whether you agree with the process or not, because it really just says to one chamber you either do what we do or nothing gets done."

He added: "I’m very proud of the senate that we didn’t take that bait."