"[T]he 60-day session ended with Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon publicly rebuking each other over with Haridopolos accusing Cannon of playing 'silly games' and Cannon claiming to 'take the high road' by rejecting a controversial Senate tax break." "Senate president: silly games got in way of serious business". More: "After midnight: How the Legislature’s wheels came off".
"Sine Die on the 2011 legislative session came at 3:35 a.m. Saturday when the Florida Senate approved a tax package that became an odd point of contention in a day of odd points of contention."
Bitter and exhausted Republicans had officially extended the session into overtime late Friday as the House and Senate began killing each other's bills unexpectedly."Legislative session melts down, finally ends just before 4 a.m."
"It's an enormous power struggle," said Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico. She blamed the meltdown on the proliferation of what are known as conference reports, which are the product of joint House-Senate committees.
In all, legislative leaders wanted rank-and-file lawmakers to pass 44 of them. Some of the legislation was decided in the final days, involved few lawmakers and made major policy changes that irked those who weren't on the inside. It was a powder keg. And despite the fact that Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature, they ran out of time and patience with each other.
"It just didn't work out," Senate President Mike Haridopolos said after midnight. "We would rather get it right then get out on time."
"Republican lawmakers forced overtime on a business-dominated session early Saturday as they pushed through a vast array of conservative priorities, from repealing growth laws to handing over most of the state's Medicaid patients to health-maintenance organizations." "Conservative priorities win during wild (and late) final day of session". See also "House Engages in Busy -- and Long -- 'Last' Day of Session", "Florida Legislature passes bill cracking down on 'pill mills'", "Both Chambers Pass Florida Budget Despite Session Collapse" ("with Republicans controlling supermajorities in both chambers of the Florida Legislature, passing the budget should have been simple"), "$69.7B budget shares the pain", "", "Bills allow larger school class sizes, end tenure, expand school choice" and "Florida lawmakers bring bizarre end to session with $70 billion budget".
Aaron Deslatte says "no one should be surprised at what is happening in Tallahassee. It has been telegraphed for years, as Cannon and Haridopolos have promised that they would engineer a conservative revolution if they could build supermajorities in both chambers and keep a Republican in the Governor's Mansion."
Democrats now represent little more than a back-bench distraction. Their greatest achievements in the House this year were preventing a property-tax break for businesses from going to voters sooner than the 2012 general election, and the now-infamous blowup over the use of the word "uterus" on the floor."Cannon, Haridopolos engineered a conservative revolution".
In both chambers, they hold fewer than one-third of the seats, so they are virtually powerless to hold up legislation. This year, Republicans even put a clock on the House chamber's overhead screen to set time limits on debate, cutting Democrats off in midsentence when they went beyond their allotted five to 10 minutes.
Yes, this is the state of political discourse in the Florida House: the minority party treated like a high-school debate team.
The institutional power of the GOP supermajority allows it to do so. Four years ago, then-House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber was able to stage a face-off with then-Speaker Marco Rubio that brought the House to a grinding halt as the Democrats demanded each bill be read in full. But with less than one-third of the 120 House seats, Democrats can't even put a speed bump in Cannon's agenda.
"Session is dynamic; it's a very short, time-limited event. In a part-time Legislature, you've got 60 days to get everything done," Cannon said. "We were more organized; we had more thoughtful use of procedures."
In the Legislature's world, the winner writes the rules. And Republicans have been doing a lot of winning, for a long time.
"Any whoppers from the session? Well ...".
Haridopolos' coloring book
"The state Democratic Party distributed the 16-page spoof among lobbyists and staffers on the fourth floor of the Capitol as lawmakers rushed toward adjournment of the 2011 session Friday. For years, Haridopolos has been hounded about his $152,000 book deal at Brevard Community College, which printed a single copy of 'Florida Legislative History and Processes.'" "Democrat: Dems release coloring book mocking Haridopolos' book ".
"Environmental advocates with a one-two punch"
"Florida legislators hit environmental advocates with a one-two punch in the final two days of the session, wiping out 30 years of growth management law and passing measures to restrict the public from challenging controversial development projects in the name of economic development." "Florida lawmakers wipe out 30 years of growth management law". See also "Bill to end growth oversight passes".
Public dollars for religious groups
"Florida lawmakers sent the emotional debate over the separation of church and state to the ballot on the last day of the legislative session Friday, signing off on a constitutional amendment dealing with spending public money for religious groups." "Lawmakers allow repeal of religious aid ban to go to 2012 ballot".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "In normal times, piling more students into classes would not be considered a good thing. In these times, when Gov. Scott and the Legislature are downright hostile toward public schools, relaxing class-size requirements is a practical way to reduce the impact of the Legislature's $1.3 billion cuts in education funding." "Budgets shrink, classes grow: Class-size 'fix' is only favor Legislature gave schools".
Steve Bousquet: "Budget bosses then and now".
"Cannibalizing ourselves in court."
Fred Grimm: "Don’t worry. Despite the most brutal budget cuts in state history, the taxpayers of Florida still have millions set aside for their epic battle against the taxpayers of Florida. Both houses of the Florida Legislature managed to find plenty of money — also known as your money — for the slush funds underwriting their costly lawsuit against the Fair Districts amendments." "They use our money to fight us".
"Florida Legislature Passes Medicaid Reform". See also "Florida Medicaid undergoes major rewrite, to shift 2.9 million people into managed care" and "Florida Senate passes historic Medicaid overhaul".
"Unholy trinity of church, state and commerce"
Kenric Ward writes that an "Unholy trinity of church, state and commerce kills immigration bills -- again".
It was a slow death that tea party groups and others say they will not forget at the 2012 elections. After perennial bait-and-switch promises from Republicans, citizen anger is reaching critical mass.The teabaggers ain't happy:
It was a slow death that tea party groups and others say they will not forget at the 2012 elections. After perennial bait-and-switch promises from Republicans, citizen anger is reaching critical mass."Yet, wrapped in pseudo-religious trappings of political correctness, the business-labor alliance prevailed again at the 2011 Legislature. And that strikes immigration-control advocate George Fuller as more than a little ironic, historically speaking."
Much of the disgust was directed at Senate President Mike Haridopolos and Budget Chairman J.D. (rhymes with "shady") Alexander, who honchoed the E-Verify bill into oblivion.
Haridopolos, who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, can say he voted for the ill-fated measure. Yet that claim doesn't hold much water because he strategically placed Alexander and Anitere Flores in key committee chairs, where they could fiddle with the bill until it was too late.
Also on the hit list are 10 other Senate Republicans who voted against SB 2040 -- and they didn't say "nay" over concerns that it had been watered down.
Led by Alexander and Flores, this herd of RINOs fell into line with lockstep Democrats: Ellyn Bogdanoff, Charlie Dean, Nancy Detert, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Rene Garcia, Dennis Jones, Jack Latvala, Jim Norman, Garrett Richter and Steve Wise.
Little noted but equally culpable were House Republican leaders who just ran out the clock on HB 7089, a tougher E-Verify and enforcement measure authored by Rep. Will Snyder. In a session-ending stare-down with the Senate, the House didn't even bother to take up its bill or the Senate's -- completing the twin killing.
"Schoolchildren are taught the slaves were freed from their shackles," Fuller said, noting that this year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. "The fact is, economic slavery did not end then and has continued to this day. "E-Verify is Dead, Long Live the Florida Plantation". More: "Immigration proposals die on final day of session" and "Immigration bill dies in Florida Legislature".
"As one Florida grower put it, 'We used to own them, now we just rent them,'" Fuller related.
And so it goes. While businesses "rent" undocumented workers for "slave" wages, Floridians foot the bill for educating, medicating and incarcerating illegal aliens at an estimated cost of nearly $5.5 billion annually ... and the politicians say wait till next year.
"Florida lawmakers cut unemployment benefit duration". See also "Lawmakers cut unemployment benefits to 23 weeks".
"Kriseman petitions for citizens to be able to recall officials".
"A depressing metaphor"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "By state Sen. Mike Bennett's muddled reasoning, voting should be an onerous burden designed to discourage all but those with the means and time to travel far to exercise their constitutional rights."
In making an indefensible argument supporting the Florida Legislature's effort to suppress voting by reducing early voting, hampering provisional voting and hamstringing third-party voter registration groups, Bennett contended voting has become too easy. "I want them to fight for it," the senator said. "I want them to have to walk across town to vote.""Legislature votes against the voters". Douglas C. Lyons: "Election reform is anything but"
Exactly whom does he mean by "them"? Poor people who rely on public transportation? Working people who don't have time to drive across town to cast ballots? Minority residents who should not have to leave their neighborhoods to find a voting booth?
Bennett's arrogance serves as a depressing metaphor ...
"Cannon's plan could return, zombie-like"
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "House Speaker Dean Cannon's politically driven proposal to divide and pack the Florida Supreme Court is dead — for now. It expired this week after running into bipartisan opposition from senators who recognized it as an assault on the independence of the state's highest court."
But because the speaker won't take no for an answer, the plan could return next year, zombie-like. While cutting $4 billion in spending for education, health care and other basic services in next year's budget — Cannon called it "the toughest budget in modern history" — negotiators slipped in $400,000 to pay for a study of the speaker's plan to divide the high court into criminal and civil divisions."No good reason to squander $400,000 to study a Supreme Court makeover".
Accidents will happen
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "A bill sent to Gov. Rick Scott breaks the connection between released felons getting their civil rights restored and qualifying for public jobs and state occupational and professional licenses." "Bright spot on civil rights".