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Special Session Blackout

December 2nd, 2009 by flanews

A special legislative session on commuter rail is scheduled to begin tomorrow morning despite objections from black state lawmakers. Republican legislative leaders scheduled the session to begin on the same day as the National Black Caucus of State Legislators comes to Fort Lauderdale. As Whitney Ray tells us, there are 25 black state lawmakers and only one is a Republican.

When the gavel drops signaling the start of the special session, the minority party will have a bigger disadvantage than usual. Twenty-five state lawmakers will have to decide whether to begin work on commuter rail or attend a The National Black Caucus of State Legislators which Florida is hosting for the first time. Former House Member Curtis Richardson says lawmakers shouldn’t have to choose.

“The speaker should accommodate those members and allow them to be here and I understand a resolution was put forward where he could have done that,” said Richardson.

Only one of the black state legislators is a Republican leaving the possibility of 24 empty Democratic seats the first half of the eight day session. The state Democratic Party says the GOP leadership is being insensitive.

“We have a Republican leadership in a Republican legislature that just wants to play political games, play partisan politics and it’s disappointing,” said Eric Jotkoff, Spokesman for the Florida Democrats.

House Members, Senators and even the CFO unsuccessfully pushed to delay the session. In a bit of a concession, legislative leaders excused black lawmakers from the first few days of the special session, but that means those members will have less time to make decisions on some complex issues.”

House Speaker Larry Cretul isn’t worried about those members having to pay catch up.

“Briefings have been set up for, could be set up for, Sunday evening if we get enough interest,” said Cretul.

While black members struggle with the schedule, Jewish members are being given assurances the special session will end before next Friday evening the beginning of Hanukkah festivities.

Cretul says there are no alternative dates to hold the special session, because if the legislature doesn’t voted to expand commuter rail by the end of the year, the state could miss a shot at 2.5 billion federal dollars for the project.

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