Florida legislators rush to finish work in final hours
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Legislature wrapped up most of its work for its annual session on Friday, but not before topsy-turvy final few hours that saw legislators pass several major bills before they ended their work.
Lawmakers still have to come back Sunday to vote on a nearly $89 billion state budget. But Friday was the last day to pass any other bills and lawmakers sent measures to Gov. Rick Scott dealing with the state’s opioid crisis and agreed to make threats of mass shootings and terrorist acts a second-degree felony.
This year’s session was upended by the mass shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed. Legislators spent hours on a sweeping gun and school safety bill that they passed earlier this week and which was signed into law Friday by Gov. Rick Scott.
But many other measures fell by the wayside as a result including a bill that would have fully banned texting while driving. Other bills that died in the waning moments included a bill dealing with sexual harassment as Senate and House Republicans disagreed over what to do.
State government was roiled by scandals late last year.
Sen. Jack Latvala stepped down after an investigation found evidence of sexual misconduct, Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair with a lobbyist and Public Service Commission appointee Ritch Workman stepped down after a senator accused him of touching her inappropriately.
The Legislature did at the last minute agree to pass a bill designed to battle the state’s opioid epidemic. It is a top priority for Gov. Rick Scott.
The House and Senate were at a stalemate for hours over whether the bill should have dedicated funding for Vivitrol, an opioid antagonist that helps prevent heroin and opioid dependency.
Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican and the House budget chairman, said that “holding up the passage of vital addiction services legislation while demanding one company receive over $5 million of taxpayer money every year puts profits before people.” The two sides finally forged a compromise that allowed the purchase of Vivitrol along with other types of treatment.