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Wheat Or Chaff: Bills Sorting Out As The Final Week Begins

Rep. Evan Jenne (D-Dania Beach) addressing the Democratic caucus.
Nick Evans

As the Legislature enters its final week in Tallahassee, the regular session is beginning to come into focus.  At this point, lawmakers have a pretty good idea of what’s passing and what will have to wait until next year.

There are only four days left in the legislative session, and it kind of seems like the only sure thing is that lawmakers won’t be done in time.  The only question now is whether leadership will extend the current session or wait for a special session later in the summer.  But while the budget impasse is dominating conversation, the ordinary day-to-day work of passing bills continues.  And those bills are beginning to sort themselves into three groups: those that are passing, those that aren’t, and those that are hanging on by a thread.  And as that sorting resolves itself, lawmakers can begin to chalk up legislative victories and defeats.  For Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) a bill on no-contact orders goes down in the win column.

“The first one that we passed was the no-contact order bill,” Raschein says.  “And what that did—it’s very pro-domestic violence victim.  It clarified what a no-contact order is, and once a judge issues it it goes into effect immediately.”

But on the other side of the aisle, Rep. Evan Jenne (D-Dania Beach) explains sometimes a legislative victory looks a bit different.

“What am I most proud of?  Probably of all the horrible bills that never got heard or died a horrible death in committee, and there were quite a few of them,” Jenne says.  “So that’s probably what I’m most proud of is the amount of bills that did not go all the way through to the Governor’s desk.

Now, it’s never over for a bill until session ends, but by now lawmakers know where they stand. 

“I’m disappointed that we didn’t make more progress to make sure that Florida was a center of innovation on technologies like Uber,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) says about his transportation network companies bill.

“It appears now that the Florida Senate and Florida House are far apart on that legislation,” he goes on, “and that local governments will be able to continue to regulate innovative technologies out of existence, and I just wish we would’ve closed that gap a little bit sooner in the session.”

Sen. Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) is disappointed he couldn’t gain traction for a crime intervention plan.

“It has to deal with curbing the school-to-prison pipeline,” Bullard says, “putting intervention strategies in place for students so they’re not going straight into the penal system for minor infractions.”

But for some legislation there’s still a glimmer of hope.  Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) is hoping her write-in candidate measure doesn’t get left at the station. 

“I hope that we—some of my bills will get on a train,” Sobel says.  “I truly believe that the write-in issue was a major issue causing heart burn to a lot of supervisors of elections.”

Trains are bills covering broad legislative topics, and lawmakers use them as a way to link up numerous provisions that might not pass on their own.  Meanwhile Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) is hoping to push through a prison reform package. 

“We were able to pass comprehensive prison reform out of the Senate,” Bradley says, “the House has responded, and it looks like we’re almost there.”

And with just four days left, yes—we’re all almost there.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.