Pesky Legal Speedbump for Florida Legislature

Columns: More than one route to the Hill for speaker is a political roundup column that's mostly about how Flordians are not warming to Rep. Byrd, the loathsome, craven, special-interest sellout who is the Speaker of the Florida House. This despite Speaker Byrd's tri-weekly spam emails to everyone in the state, his phoney push polls, and piles of special interest campaign money.

But the really interesting thing in this St. Petersburg Times column is the final tidbit, one that is catnip for constitutional law junkies (spotted via Flablog):

State legislators took this week off, but is it legal?

The Florida Constitution says the Legislature cannot adjourn its 60-day session for more than 72 consecutive hours without passing a concurrent resolution. The House and Senate passed no resolution when they left town last week, merely recessing for 10 days for Passover and the Easter holidays.

Former House Dean Carl Ogden says lawmakers could be forced to call themselves back into special session and re-file all of the bills that are pending or face having anything they do declared invalid by a court.

Indeed, the Florida Constitution states in Article III, Section 3, paragraph (e) that “Neither house shall adjourn for more than seventy-two consecutive hours except pursuant to concurrent resolution.”

Whether it follows that an excessive adjournment amounts to the end of the session isn't 100% obvious to me, although it makes sense if the only other alternative is to say that it's a political question for which there is no relief (always an awful answer in my book). A quick and dirty Westlaw search found little in the way of relevant caselaw. In light of State ex rel. Landis v. Thompson, 125 Fla. 466, 170 So. 464 (1936) (Legislative day can only be terminated by adjournment or some actual dispersing of assembled membership amounting to same thing), the viewpoint that an excessive adjourment terminates the session certainly seems arguble. I think Mr. Ogden has a point, and that the legislature becomes functus officio after 72 hours adjournment without a concurrent resolution. Meaning no more laws this year unless a special session is called…which indeed requires re-introducing them all.

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