UPDATE: Cretul says no way to session delayby Dara Kam | December 1st, 2009
Democrats in the House, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and black state lawmakers are asking legislative leaders to put the brakes on a special session on rail until Monday to accommodate the black lawmakers’ national conference being held this week in Ft. Lauderdale.
Many of the state’s black House and Senate members will be at the event as hosts of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators’ annual conference. The conference has been in the works for two years and many members have already plunked down the cash to attend the fete that runs from Wednesday through Saturday.
Too bad, House Speaker Larry Cretul wrote in a memo today sent to all House members.
He said the black lawmakers – all but one of whom are Democrats – can get an excused absence but that’s about it.
“We all share the burdens of public office, which can be especially frustrating during this season. However, it is our duty to assemble when the needs of our state require it. I am confident that this Session is important to Florida. The issue before us means jobs for Floridians and building part of our state’s transportation future. I appreciate your willingness to undertake these important duties,” Cretul, R-Ocala, wrote.
Senate President Jeff Atwater already obliged the black lawmakers by holding off on floor sessions until next week, after they’ve returned to Tallahassee for what was previously scheduled as a committee week.
But House Speaker Larry Cretul has slated floor sessions on Thursday and Friday – forcing black lawmakers to choose between attending the conference and getting an excused absence.
The session was scheduled to coincide with committee week already set for Dec. 7-11 and to finish up by Dec. 11 in time for Hannukah.
House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands asked Cretul to hold off on the floor sessions in a letter sent today.
“There is no apparent reason that you have given for convening House floor sessions this week rather than in conjunction with the Florida Senate on Monday. Without urgent rectification, the current scheduling conflict presents an unfair choice to many members of the House of Representatives and threatens to injure Florida’s reputation on matters of importance to the National Black Caucus of State Legislators,” Sands, D-Weston, wrote.
Sink, the presumptive Democratic candidate for governor, joined in with the same request.
“As the calendar now stands in the House, many members of our Legislature will be forced to jeopardize their longstanding commitment to host this significant event, or be unable to have their voices heard on such an important issue for Florida. The House’s current schedule also conflicts with the need to encourage Florida as a national destination for conferences and events, by showing a disregard for the fact that a nationwide conference is being held in our state,” she wrote to Cretul.
And finally, the Florida Legislative Black Caucus asked Atwater to postpone the session’s start until Monday. Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, is the conference host and the event is expected to bring loads of cash into Broward County, caucus chairman Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, wrote.