Bush may summon legislators next week


Published: Thursday, May 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 at 10:44 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush may call state lawmakers back into a special session as early as next Wednesday, as the Legislature prepares to end a regular session where they couldn't agree on a new state budget or many other major issues.

Bush has called for a 9 a.m. meeting today with House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, and Senate President Jim King, R-Jacksonville, to talk about the special session.

Senate leaders say they have been told by Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, a former Senate president, that Bush may call them into a special session as early as next Wednesday.

Byrd, the House leader, said he prefers beginning the overtime session as soon as possible, as lawmakers face a looming July 1 deadline for getting a new state budget in place.

But King, the Senate leader, said it might be a better idea to let more time elapse before bringing lawmakers back to Tallahassee. He suggested at least a week's hiatus, after the regular session's scheduled end on Friday.

``People need a chance to cool off,'' he said. ``People need a chance to rest. We need agreements.''

Recalling past special sessions that ended in failure because of a lack of agreement heading into them, King said his advice to the governor would be to try to reach some accords between House and Senate leaders before starting another session.

``If there isn't a deal, there isn't a plan,'' King said. ``If there isn't a plan, that can lead to disaster.''

Senate Rules Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said he would also prefer a longer break between the regular session and a special session. Coming back next week, Lee said, ``sounds more like punishment than a plan.''

The $53 billion state budget will be the main issue in the special session.

House and Senate leaders stopped negotiations on the appropriations bill this week, when lawmakers announced they couldn't work out the spending plan by the session's end.

Other issues could also be on the overtime session's agenda.

With two days left in their regular 60-day session, lawmakers have yet to reach agreement on a medical malpractice package, worker's compensation insurance, auto insurance, an anti-smoking measure and a constitutional amendment limiting class size.

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