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Chaos breaks out as Florida legislature passes all special session bills

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — All three initiatives spelled out in the Florida Legislature’s special session on redistricting and special independent districts passed – some without debate – Thursday, shown in dramatic video from the session.

Just before, the session had been temporarily paused as House Democratic members protested the redistricting bill, claiming the maps minimize Black voters’ voices. When lawmakers returned to the chamber for voting, members shouted over the process as the House’s Republican members voted to pass all three bills.

“Clerk will lock the machine and log the presence of a quorum,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Pinellas) reported.

Sprowls commented on the protests of some of his colleagues, saying they were disruptive but the legislative process would be finished. A quorum was reached with 107 members voting, and the House Speaker announced the chamber was back in session.

“Members, we are back in session. As is obvious, we have members who have decided they wanted to hijack our process today,” Sprowls said. “It is my belief and your belief that no member of this chamber has the opportunity to shut down our process, to shut down a job that members, people of the public and people of Florida have asked us to do. We will be concluding our business today. It was my hope that our colleagues would join us in not being disruptive, but we will be finishing our business. It is my understanding that leader Grant has yielded back his time, which is the final debate block of this bill.”

Sprowls then yielded the floor back to Chairman Tom Leek to close the debate. The entirety of the conclusion, shouts of protest and chanting could be heard. Leek waived close, putting the final passage of the first of three bills, SB 2C, the new congressional map, to vote.

Sprowls noted vote at 68-38, passing the vote on partisan lines, to which the Republican members applauded.

The House then voted on the next two bills, SB 4C and SB 6C, on Independent Districts and Social Media Platforms, respectively.

“Members, we are now going to proceed to the next two bills,” Sprowls said as the shouting in the chamber continued. “These two bills have got a lot of questions, and a lot of attention, over the last couple of days. Every member in this chamber should have the opportunity to debate them, to talk about them, and to speak their piece. We are going to move on to those two bills. If we can have a civil debate, that respects the rules of this House, that all of us have voted and agreed to, then we will do that.”

The shouting grew louder, as Sprowls continued.

“If however our colleagues continue to try to shut down our process, I will entertain a motion to call the previous question, and we will vote on these two bills,” Sprowls said. “It is my hope that we will be able to proceed civilly, and with decorum and with respect for one another.”

Then he ordered the next bill to be read, as shouts continued. The independent districts bill was voted on first. Representative Randy Fine, the bill’s author, said explanation of the bill was unneeded due to discussion the day before.

“Thank you Mr. Speaker, it seems that Mickie and Minnie have joined us in the chamber today, that said, this is the bill that was discussed yesterday,” Fine said, amid the clamor.

Sprowls told representatives that they would go into structured debate or call the previous question and vote without debate. Rep. Renner moved to do so, and a majority vote of “ayes” moved it forward.

The vote on SB 4C passed 70-38, again on partisan voting lines, and again followed by applause of the Republican members.

The final vote over amendment to 2021’s social media platform censorship bill, removing a carve out exempting theme park companies, was voted on.

The vote for SB 6C, still with shouting in the background, passed 70-38, again on partisan lines. With no other resolutions or bills on the calendar, the legislative session adjourned with a majority vote.

Following the end of the House session and the chamber’s closing, Speaker Sprowls released a statement on the circumstances of the vote, largely targeting the members in protest for “trying to drown out” their colleagues.

The statement read:

“Today a group of Representatives decided to hijack the legislative process, violating House Rules and interfering with the rights of their fellow elected colleagues to debate important legislation before the body.

We saw a group of Florida House members with microphones at their desk, a statewide audience, and an opportunity to vote on behalf of their constituents, and they instead chose to pretend they had to stage a protest to be heard.

House Democrats requested and agreed to 75 minutes of debate time on Congressional maps, and they used the entire time. They did not request any additional time prior to the group’s disruption.

After offering multiple opportunities to debate the bills in an orderly way, we carried on and completed our Constitutional duty to pass a Congressional map. Ultimately, this group tried to drown out the voices of the other elected Representatives and the 22 million Floridians they represent.”

Statement from House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Pinellas)

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