Provided by Moné Holder, The New Florida Majority’s Legislative & Policy Director

The 2015 regular legislative session was brought to an early end by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, April 28th due to a budget impasse with the Senate over the expansion of Medicaid. The State constitutes that the Florida Legislature passes a balanced budget by the end of each legislative session with the cutoff being June 30, 2015.

There is a $4 billion budget difference with the House strongly against the expansion of healthcare to over 800,000 Floridians. If both chambers fail to agree on a state budget; the state of Florida could face a government shutdown.

Florida Senate Democrats filed an emergency petition on April 30, 2015, with the state Supreme Court to force the House back into regular session after its adjournment sine die on Tuesday. Session was scheduled to end on Friday, May 1st.

The basis of the lawsuit filed by Senate Democrats was that the House violated a clause in the constitution that says neither chamber can adjourn for more than 72 hours without an agreement between the House and Senate.

Read more about the lawsuit in The Associated Press.

They also argued that adjournment sine die by one chamber’s motion rather than concurrent resolution by both chambers is inconsistent with the text and purpose of the Florida Constitution.

The Supreme Court gave the House until 10 a.m. the next day to respond.

On May 1st the House filed legal papers with the defense that its actions were constitutional and also questioned whether the Florida Supreme Court even has the right to consider the lawsuit citing separation of powers.

The Supreme Court denied the petition filed by Democrats a few hours before the 60-day session was originally scheduled to end. The ruling stated that under the circumstances the senators failed to show how compelling the House would produce any beneficial result. But five of the seven justices agreed that the House violated the constitution by adjourning early.

Read Senate President Andy Gardiner’s letter to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli on April 29, 2015, suggesting that the adjournment sine die three days early violates the Florida Constitution and House Rules.

Read House Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s Response.

There will be a Special Session held for the sole purpose of passing a budget. It is likely to take place June 1-June 20.

Legislation

The 2015 legislative session saw the fewest bills filed and passed by both chambers since the beginning of the 21st Century.  This year there were 1,754 bills filed and only 231 passed. Several bills, some of which were considered high priority, died due to the early adjournment of the House.

Upon passage in the House and Senate all bills become enrolled and sent to the governor for approval before they become effective.  As of May 5, 2015 only nine bills have been approved.

SB 288 sponsored by Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) which will implement an online voter registration system in the state of Florida by October 2017 passed the Senate on Wednesday despite a last minute amendment being added by the House.  The bill is now awaiting approval by the Governor.