BRADENTON, Fla. — Two days after the Nov. 2 general election, when Florida Republicans won a majority of seats in the Legislature, incoming leaders decided to call a special session to override vetoes by outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist.
Republicans now control both chambers, holding 28 of the 40 seats in the Senate and 81 of the 120 seats in the House.
As soon as new members and leaders are sworn in Tuesday morning, incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, will call a special session in the afternoon.
Lawmakers plan to overturn Crist’s line-item vetoes of a $9.7 million appropriation and nine bills following the regular session earlier this year. They also will discuss delaying implementation of legislation requiring septic tanks to be inspected and laying the policy groundwork to take a pilot Medicaid reform program statewide next year in hopes of better controlling burgeoning health care costs.
Crist, a one-time governor and Republican-turned-Independent who lost his bid for a U.S. Senate seat on Nov. 2, has not spoken publicly about his former party’s eagerness to overturn his decisions. He leaves office in January when Republican Rick Scott is sworn in.
“Since we will already be in Tallahassee [on Tuesday], we have an opportunity to dispose of some legislative business without the additional cost of a special session,” Cannon said, characterizing the planned vetoes as the “remediation of problems.”
One of the first things on the agenda will be overturning Crist’s veto of a $9.7 million appropriation for Shands Teaching Hospital at the state’s flagship college, the University of Florida. Lawmakers passed the appropriation on a vote of 77 to 43.
Crist vetoed Shands’ funding when he signed the $70.3 billion budget May 27, saying it had not been properly vetted.
Cannon said Crist is wrong. Funding for Shands has been provided by the Legislature since 1981 and without the money, the hospital would be forced to make a number of budget reductions that would affect services to the poor, he said in a review of next week’s session.
Lawmakers also plan to reverse Crist’s veto of HB 545. That bill repeals a law requiring sellers of homes in hurricane-prone coastal areas to disclose the home’s windstorm mitigation rating to prospective buyers beginning Jan. 1.
Cannon said requiring that kind of disclosure “could cause home sales in all coastal areas of Florida to be delayed, discouraged, or prevented.” Also, it “is a potential impediment to home sales in Florida because it puts an additional burden on the seller.”
The veto of HB 981 is another action to be overturned next week. It would clarify existing law that provides a significant property tax break for developers and property owners using land for agricultural purposes, which qualifies for a lower assessment.
Some studies have found that a number of landowners and speculators have kept property in the agricultural category by keeping a few head of cows on it, a practice known as “rent-a-cow.”
Crist said he vetoed the bill because it could make it easier for developers to take advantage of the lower valuation. But Cannon said the law is intended to protect bona fide landowners who choose to offer their property for sale from losing their agricultural classification and paying higher taxes.