Lobbying team for GrayRobinson recaps a legislative session that didn't end when they thought it would.
The GrayRobinson law firm’s state lobbying team was put on the schedule several weeks ago to present on Thursday a wrap-up of the 2017 Florida legislative session for about 100 of the firm’s clients and other business and community leaders.
What no one knew when they booked lunch at The River Club was that the Legislature would have to convene a special session to work out among themselves and with Gov. Rick Scott the final details of the state’s 2017-18 budget, so the team took a break from the fray in Tallahassee and drove to Jacksonville.
The panel comprised Chris Carmody, Chris Dawson, David Griffin and Robert Stuart, the firm’s senior director of government affairs.
Their presentation included insight about how the legislative process works and comments on the general session.
Griffin said something many people don’t realize is how few bills are enacted in relation to the number filed. This, session, he said, 3,052 bills were introduced, but only 249 were passed by the House and the Senate.
The House and Senate go about their business differently. While House members generally vote along the party line determined by the leadership, that’s not how it works in the Senate, according to Carmody.
“The House gets in line and takes orders from the top. The Senate is more a group of individuals,” he said.
Griffin pointed out that Scott vetoed $410 million of the $82 billion budget, including about two-thirds of the projects that were approved by legislators.
“There’s no doubt the governor didn’t hold back his frustration on certain House votes,” Carmody said.
Last year, the Legislature approved putting Jacksonville’s pension reform plan on the ballot and voters approved in November extending the
1 cent local sales tax.
This year, an across-the-board pay raise was approved for state employees, including judges, Carmody said.
On another legal issue, Stuart said lawmakers “quelled what’s become a cottage industry in the legal profession” — lawsuits alleging that government entities don’t follow the rules for public records requests.
He said under the new law, litigants remain entitled to attorney’s fees, but courts will have discretion as to when to award them.
“The hope is to guarantee access to public records while making sure the laws aren’t taken advantage of,” he said.
The annual attempt to modify Florida’s casino gambling laws ran true to form again this year.
“It starts hot and heavy and ends with a big thud,” Griffin said.
Jacksonville office Managing Partner Kenneth Jacobs said the annual Legislative Wrap Up began five years ago to share the firm’s expertise with the communities around the 13 GrayRobinson offices in Florida.
He said U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, former Jacksonville sheriff, has been invited to the next GrayRobinson Community Leader Forum in Jacksonville, to be scheduled in September.
HARD TO PASS A LAW
How hard is it to get a bill through the Florida Legislature? For the 2017 session, consider the numbers:
Bills introduced: 3,052
Bills passed by the House and Senate: 249