Florida legislative committee urges special session

By DAVID ROYSE

Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A committee of the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature called today for lawmakers to meet in special session "as soon as practicable" to consider appointment of electors in the state’s contested presidential election.

The vote came over the objections of Democrats, who said there should be no interference in the election controversy.

Florida’s House speaker and Senate president are expected to follow the recommendation to convene the state’s 160 lawmakers — 102 of them Republicans — in an action that Democrats have criticized as a George W. Bush campaign backup plan.

Even before the committee acted, Democrat Al Gore’s lawyers filed papers in the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the right of the Legislature to intervene.

No exact date was set for the session. Republicans say the U.S. Constitution allows them to step in because the legal wrangling over who won Florida could drag past the Dec. 12 deadline for naming voters to the Electoral College, putting in jeopardy the state’s participation.

The Senate’s leading Democrat opened the special committee’s deliberations with an impassioned plea against what was widely seen as a foregone conclusion.

"What the hell is going on here? You know and I know it, this is not the right thing to do," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Rossin.

But the new House speaker, Rep. Tom Feeney, pressed forward.

"I don’t believe there’s an option at this point and I’m prepared to go," said Feeney, who along with the Senate president has the power to call a special session. "I’m standing on the playing field ready to put my helmet on."

Gore said in advance, "I can’t believe that the people of Florida want to see the expression of their will taken away by politicians. I think you’d see quite a negative response to it."

An ABC News-Washington Post poll released earlier this week found that by a 2-1 margin, Americans disapproved of Florida’s Legislature getting involved in determining the winner.

Democrats contend it’s nothing more than a Bush campaign backup plan to assure his electoral victory, even if Gore’s legal challenges make him the court-declared winner of the election.

Sen. John McKay, president of the Senate, has said it was a "reasonable conclusion" that the Legislature would name its own slate of electors. But he was moving cautiously.

"This is too important an issue to be taken lightly," he said. "We’re going to give it the attention and the respect that it deserves.

McKay said he had not decided for sure whether a session was needed, and was waiting for a report from the committee looking into the issue. "If I didn’t wait for the report that would be hypocritical," he said.

If the state’s lawmakers do name a slate of 25 electors pledged to Bush, it could put Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the position of signing off on a measure that could effectively make his brother the president.

However, it was not clear whether the Legislature would have to pass a law appointing electors, or could do so via a concurrent resolution that would not require a gubernatorial signature. Roger Magnuson, majority council to the state senate, said at a hearing Wednesday that he thought a concurrent resolution would be the way to go.

Jeb Bush said it would be "an act of courage" for lawmakers to go into special session and that he would sign legislation naming a separate slate of electors "if it was the appropriate thing to do."

"I admire them for at least, on a contingency basis, accepting that responsibility and duty," Bush said outside a Cabinet meeting. "If there is uncertainty, the Legislature has clear delegated authority from the U.S. Constitution to seek the electors."

But Bush added that he would bow to the U.S. Supreme Court if it ultimately decided Gore won the election. "If the U.S. Supreme Court disagrees with the Florida Legislature, I think the United States Supreme Court trumps the Legislature," the governor said.

A House Democratic leader said the ultimate decision on whether the Legislature weighs in could end up coming from outside the Capitol.

"The shots are going to be called by the Bush campaign. If the Bush campaign wants it to go, it’ll go," Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach said.

McKay said he has relied on the opinions of legal scholars who say the Legislature has the power under the Constitution to name electors if there is a chance the state’s voice will note be heard in the Electoral College.

"What I’ve heard so far is if all the contests are not concluded by the 12th, the Legislature has a responsibility to create a safety net," McKay said. "If that’s our responsibility, that’s our responsibility."

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road on Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Long live the Speedway! Mukilteo’s main drag won’t be renamed

The public shot down the mayor’s idea to change the name: 77% voted ‘No’ in an online survey, with 95% opposed on Facebook.

Everett
Motorcyclist dies in crash on East Marine View Drive in Everett

Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, a motorcycle and a vehicle crashed into each other at the intersection of 11th street and East Marine View Drive.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist dies in crash on Highway 530

Jeremy Doyle, 46, was riding east near Darrington when he crashed into the side of a car that was turning left.

The Marysville School District office on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Financially insolvent’ Marysville schools to get unprecedented oversight

Superintendent Chris Reykdal will convene a first-of-its-kind Financial Oversight Committee, he wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Woodside Elementary Principal Betty Cobbs on Monday, June 17, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s first Black principal retires after 51 years

In her office, Betty Cobbs kept a black-and-white photo of herself at age 5: “I am right there, with dreams of becoming an educator.”

Junelle Lewis, right, daughter Tamara Grigsby and son Jayden Hill sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Monroe’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
On Juneteenth: ‘We can always say that there is hope’

The Snohomish County NAACP is co-sponsoring a celebration Saturday near Snohomish, with speakers, music and food.

Susanna Johnson speaks during an interview on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Sheriff: New police pursuit policy under review amid state rollback

New state standards once again allow police to pursue a suspect without probable cause for a crime — and give departments discretion to adjust policy.

Snohomish County Health Department Director Dennis Worsham on Tuesday, June 11, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Long after AIDS crisis peak, LGBTQ+ health care still limited in Everett

A reopened free STI clinic signals some progress. But securing inclusive health services in Snohomish County is an uphill battle, local experts say.

Crave Spokane Valley 2023 (Courtesy of CraveNW Media Relations)
Sold out Spokane food festival coming to Lynnwood

The event Friday night at the Lynnwood Event Center will feature “foods from around the world.” The goal is to make it annual.

Bruce Guthrie outside the Frances Anderson Center, a public park owned by the city of Edmonds. Guthrie was arrested by arrested by Edmonds Police during the Edmonds Arts Festival for soliciting signatures on a petition to get Libertarian presidential candidate Chase Oliver on Washington’s ballot this year. (Photo provided by Bruce Guthrie)
Edmonds state House candidate arrested collecting petition signatures

Bruce Guthrie believes the city violated his First Amendment rights by arresting him at an event in a public park, making him a “political prisoner.”

Amazon delivery vans at a shipping facility in Chatsworth, Calif., on Jan. 12, 2022. The company has big plans to turn its delivery fleet green, but very few of the vehicles are made right now. (Roger Kisby/The New York Times)
To help fund roads, Washington lawmakers eye fee on deliveries

New revenue options are needed as gas tax collections lag behind rising maintenance costs, but “this is not a done deal.”

Everett Herald staff gather and talk in the newsroom after layoff announcements on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘This breaks my heart’: Roughly half of Everett Herald news staff laid off

A dozen journalists learned their jobs were eliminated Wednesday, in a move new owners Carpenter Media Group said was meant to ensure long-term success of the newspaper.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.