Session likely to end on a sour note – againby Dara Kam | March 6th, 2012
A testy Senate Special Order Committee meeting over a controversial “parent trigger” measure late Tuesday night set the stage for what will likely be an ugly end to the legislative session for the second year in a row.
But in a departure from the more typical animosity between the House and Senate, Senators can expect intra-cameral hard feelings before Friday’s sine die.
Intense bipartisan wrangling over the parent trigger measure peaked Tuesday night when Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, and Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich tried to remove the proposal (SB 1718) from a list of more than 50 measures being sent to the floor on special order on Thursday.
But committee chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, backed up by Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner and Senate President-designate Don Gaetz, refused to grant the pair the option of voting solely against the “Parent Empowerment” measure, which they both oppose.
Near the end of the meeting, Lynn repeatedly tried to ask Thrasher to allow her to vote no on the bill. An increasingly angry Thrasher finally cut Lynn off and, speaking over her, ordered the vote on the entire package, which passed by an unusual 4-3 vote, setting the “special order” calendar for Thursday. Lynn, Rich and Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, rejected the entire list rather than sign off on the parent trigger bill.
Lynn called the block vote a “political maneuver” that was “inappropriate and incorrect.”
But Gardiner, R-Orlando, chimed in, reminding Lynn that it was a procedural maneuver on the part of a bipartisan coalition led by Rich and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, that kept the measure from being withdrawn from a committee and sent to the Senate floor and instead required a special – and very rare – Saturday morning budget meeting to move the bill along. (Thrasher and Gardiner are an odd coalition, considering they are locked in a fight over the 2014-2016 Senate presidency.)
Gaetz, R-Niceville, agreed, accusing the bipartisan group of an “effort to stymie the process so the bill could not get to the floor.”
After the meeting adjourned, Rich said it was the first time all session a bill was not allowed to be removed from the list.
Even before the contentious parent trigger issue comes up Thursday, the Senate must wrap up amendments tomorrow on an equally acrimonious measure – personal injury protection – where battle lines are already drawn within the Senate and between the two chambers.
And Tuesday evening’s discord sets the stage for a testy Thursday, when the Senate will take up amendments on the parent trigger bill and possibly vote on PIP (if not sooner), and Friday, for a vote on the budget and on the education measure.
“It’s going to be a very divisive and bitter kind of a debate. It’s obvious just from this one thing that we did today,” Rich, D-Weston, said of the parent trigger bill. “There are good bills out there. Focusing on what unites us rather than divides us would be a good thing for us to be doing.”