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Senate Dems Ask Supreme Court If House Departure is Constitutional

The Senate Democratic Caucus files lawsuit asking Florida Supreme Court to decide whether House departure is unconstitutional.
Anders Croy
Florida Democratic Party

UPDATE 05:01 12:02 p.m.: Democratic Senator Darren Soto of Kissimmee said he will file a reply in the Supreme Court in an hour to Republican House Speaker Steve Crisafulli's argument that the House used a legal parliamentary procedure when it ended the session Tuesday, three days before its scheduled end.

Crisafulli argued calling "sine die" did not require the consent of the Senate, because the constitution prohibits one chamber from "adjourning" 72 hours without the consent of the other. 

But, "sine die is a subset of adjourn," Soto said.

He predicted justices would issue a ruling in a few days.


UPDATE 05/01: The Florida Supreme Court doesn’t have the power to settle a political battle between the two chambers of the Legislature, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli says in a court documents filed this morning. Crisafulli is responding to a lawsuit by Senate Democrats.

Democrats say Crisafulli ignored the state constitution Tuesday when blew up the session by calling it quits three days before the end of session. The constitution prohibits one chamber from adjourning for more than 72 hours without the consent of the other.

But Crisafulli argues in court documents that there’s a  loophole that allows him to end House business with one parliamentary procedure, sine die, instead of another.

UPDATE 4/30 5:28 p.m.: Senate Democrats asked the Florida Supreme Court Thursday to order the state House of Representatives to reconvene a stalled legislative session. Darren Soto of Kissimmee says the court still has time to act, even though chances are slim the House can recall enough members before  the session ends Friday. Soto says the House violated the constitution when it adjourned suddenly Tuesday, killing scores of bills.

“You can only adjourn for 72 hours and our forefathers put that in for a reason. So that one body in the chamber doesn’t dominate the other body.”

Democrats say they asked the court to step in when they learned Senate President Andy Gardiner of Orlando was not going to follow through on his threat to file a similar lawsuit. The House left three days early after accusing the Senate of bad-faith budget negotiations.

Update 4:30 p.m.: House Minority Leader Mark Pafford issued a statement on the Senate Democrat's lawsuit:

“House Democrats fully support a swift and responsible resolution to both the impasse that has deadlocked the Legislature and the constitutional questions surrounding Speaker Crisafulli’s decision to adjourn sine die. “For this reason, we stand behind Senate Democrats and the members who filed an emergency petition with the Florida Supreme Court this afternoon. The constitutional questions must be resolved. “Our focus remains on doing what’s best for the people of Florida. To the extent President Gardiner’s proposed call for special session and the request for the court to compel action promotes movement to a solution, we applaud those efforts. “House Democrats remain ready on what should have been the 59th day of the legislative session to do the work voters sent us here to do.”

Check back later on for more on this story.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.