Florida legislators go home, for now

Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 4:51 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Florida’s legislative 2021 session is now in the history books.

Lawmakers started the week with just 77 bills headed for the Governor’s desk out of more than 3,000 filed. The number topped 260 when they adjourned at mid-afternoon Friday, and the session was controversial right up to the final hankie drop.

Florida lawmakers start their sessions with a prayer and legislation on its way to the Governor will require two minutes of silence at the beginning of the school day.

Republicans in control give the session high marks.

“I think we did some tough votes, but I think we did it in a way that showed respect for all 120 members in the chamber, so I give it an A,” said Representative Sam Garrison.

Democrats, who tried to raise unemployment benefits, were not so kind.

“We can’t even get an agreement to raise the unemployment benefits in our state, but yet we can talk about children playing in sports. We are trying to restrict people’s right to vote,” said Representative Michele Rayner.

The session was controversial right up to its final moments. Democrats are still mad about a ban on transgender women playing girls’ sports.

“It would expel and humiliate the current transgender athletes that are playing on school teams right now,” said Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith.

And although watered down, the election bill still limits drop boxes. Mail ballot requests also remain a sticking point.

“This is what it looks like when 22 million people have a conversation,” said Senator Dennis Baxley.

And there was a bit of an upset right before adjournment when an amendment aimed at the NCAA was put into a bill. It says organizations that boycott Florida cannot have their dues paid with taxpayer money. In the case of FSU, it is a $1,800 a year cost that will have come from private funds in the NCAA that pulls championships out of the state.

After the hankie drop, key legislators and the Governor took a victory lap.

“What the Senate and House did this year was take long-term structural views of what we were doing,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson.

“If a local government gets hold of defund police, and someone wants to do that. We are protecting people from that, even if your local government goes off the deep end,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

Lawmakers will be back in mid-May for a week-long special session to consider ratifying a gaming compact with the Seminole tribe.