Lawmakers turn to horse-trading in final days of legislative session

By Mike Vasilinda - Tallahassee Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Horse-trading one issue for another is in full bloom in the Florida capitol as lawmakers enter the final stretch of their 60 day session. 

Rules allow the consideration of bills with little notice in the final days, and it’s not a coincidence when one bill comes up and another doesn’t.

Ending what are called certificates of need for new hospital beds is the top priority of House Speaker Jose Oliva. Hours after the Florida Senate approved the legislation, two bills to build new toll roads through the state, which is the top priority of the Senate president, showed up on the House’s special order calendar. 

Longtime lobbyist Ron Book said it didn’t happen by accident.

“Well, I don’t believe in the tooth fairy anymore than I believe in coincidences,” Book said.

Sen. Doug Broxson said it’s just how the process works. 

“That’s just the way it’s always worked, and that's the way it always will be,” he said.

He likens it to baking a cake.

“The cake is in the over,” said Broxson. "No more ingredients, we just move forward, right?”

But Sen. Janet Cruz likens the horse trading to making sausage.

“Sausage tastes delicious, but if you saw the way they make it, it’s very, very ugly,” said Cruz.

Book argues that if we see it happen, it can’t be that bad.

“People can say it's happening behind closed doors all they want, but the fact of the matter is, the sun is shining right in here, and it's being done where everybody can see it, hear it,” said Book.

The hesitance of one side not to act until the other side has done something is reminiscent of a former president. He said trust, but verify.

The trading is the grease that will get lawmakers out of session on time.

In March, the Senate president told reporters that a delay in hearing the certificate of need legislation was not a result of the toll road bill not getting a hearing. 

Shortly after that, both bills got committee hearings.

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