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Florida House adjourns early: unattended bills die

On Tuesday, April 28, the Florida House of Representatives ended their legislative session three days early, citing the ongoing debate between the House and Senate over health care expansion as the reason. The Senate is pushing the expansion of Medicaid and seeking to phase out Low Income Pool (LIP) funds, imposing new requirements for low income residents. The House considers Medicaid a flawed program and wishes to continue the reliance on LIP funds for, at least, another year. This marks the first time in forty years one segment adjourned without the other. What makes it even more significant is the only piece of legislation required to pass (the state budget) has yet to be agreed upon. In an interview with the Tallahassee Democrat, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, stated “It's the right thing for us to do...We have done a lot of work in this chamber, we've sent somewhere around 275 to 280 bills over to the Senate.” He stressed their main focus was coming to an agreement on the state budget with the Senate before the June 30 deadline. The special session will cost thousands in tax dollars for every day spent. Statebudgetsolutions.org reports that elected officials estimate a cost of anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 for every day spent in session, adding, when Maryland held a special session in 2007, it cost the state a whopping $475,000. It is still up for debate when the special session will take place. There are several ways in which it can come about. Either Governor Scott can call for a special session, both Speaker Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner could call a special session by filing a proclamation with the Secretary of State, Ken Detzner, or the legislature can meet if 20 percent of members file a petition with Detzner and he commences a poll in which three fifths of the lawmakers agree to the session. Either way, something's got to give, as the clock is running out on the fiscal year. Many are up in arms about the early adjournment. Comments began to flood WCTV's website after the announcement of the early end to the session. One reader commented, “Time for a refund to taxpayers... probably spent last night in a local drinking establishment.” Others said, “You had one job, Florida House,” and “Vote them all out!” Be it noted that, with the death of the House's 2015 session, is the death of many bills which will remain null unless they become new legislation next year. These bills include House Bill 683, which called for a non-smokable form of medical marijuana that, purportedly, would have been prescribed to patients suffering from cancer, HIV, AIDS, ALS, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease and Parkinson's disease; House Bill 259, which would have established a Small Business Saturday sales tax holiday, that would make all Small Business Saturday sales exempt from taxes from 12 a.m. until 11:59 p.m.; and the controversial HB 1145, which would allow parents to send their child to any school within the state if the desired school has not reached its capacity. Many were huge proponents of the bill, asserting it would cause schools to become competitive and make improvements in order to keep their students. Critics believed it would only be detrimental to school districts, especially those of smaller size, due to a decrease in government funding for every child lost. A bill, which remained alive despite the early adjournment, cleared the House on Monday, April 27. If passed, the law would regulate fracking in Florida and make it impossible for physicians or those concerned to find out what kinds of dangerous chemicals are being released into the ground and air during the hydraulic fracturing process. The information would be considered proprietary business information. The bill was in the Senate's hands as of press time.

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