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Fla. Lawmakers Send Election Reform Package To Gov. Scott

Florida lawmakers are now sending their election reform package to Governor Rick Scott. And, the bill passed the full legislature with bipartisan support.

The House has passed an election reforms package again that will expand early voting days and sites.

“Mr. Speaker, we started the first day of Session with this bill. And, in between a lot of hard work, we end today with this bill,” said Democratic Representative Janet Cruz.

Cruz is one of the architects of a bipartisan elections reform bill. The House actually passed the bill on the first day of Session, but a recent change by the Senate brought the bill back up again in her chamber.

That change would have allowed the Secretary of State to send a notice to the elections supervisor that they’re not doing their jobs and have their pay docked as well. That’s something that the House wanted taken out, says House Speaker Will Weatherford.

“We think it’s a little bit punitive. It’s one thing if you were an appointed election supervisor—I think you may see some language in the House that reflects that. But, as far as an elected supervisor and having the ability to punish them from the Secretary of State’s office, I don’t think the Florida House likes that position. I would imagine that would come out of the bill,” said Weatherford.

And, it did come out of the bill Friday, leaving pretty much the same bill that passed out of the Florida House on March 5th, the first day of session—something that Republican Senator Jack Latvala wasn’t too happy about.

“Their amendment that they sent back to us leaves out what I think is a very good provision that Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla included in the bill. And, so because this is an important issue, I’m ready to concur with their amendment today.”

Some Democrats, like Representative Darryl Rouson, say he’s glad lawmakers finally agreed to “reform the deform.” He’s referring to a bill that passed last year sponsored by Republican Representative Dennis Baxley that some nicknamed the “Voter Suppression Act.”

“We saw what happened in the November elections. And, it takes men and women of maturity to understand when you’ve done something in error to come back and correct it,” said Rouson.

But, Democrats in the other chamber, like Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith voted against the bill because he feels the Legislature could have done more.

“But, this is only a start. We had tremendous opportunity, tremendous opportunity to do great things on this bill. And, I think we stopped way short of the goal post,” said Smith.

The bill passed the House 115-1 with Republican Representative John Tobia as the lone dissenting vote. The passed the Senate 27-13 largely along party lines with Democrats opposed. Now, the bill heads to Governor Rick Scott.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.