TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A legislative maneuver aimed at forcing Florida lawmakers back to Tallahassee to address the state’s property insurance crisis failed, according to a Department of State document obtained by WFLA.com. The maneuver failed the same day Gov. Ron DeSantis decided to call a special session anyway.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, asked Gov. DeSantis last month to call the special session as homeowners dealt with the skyrocketing cost of insurance premiums. When the special session was not called by the governor and other legislative leaders, Brandes said he would be attempting a maneuver to force the session without them.
State statute allows a special session to be called if 20% of legislators file with the Department of State explaining conditions that warrant a special session. Last Monday, Brandes obtained the number of signatures needed to reach 20% – meaning his maneuver cleared the first hurdle and the full state legislature would be polled.
In order for a special session to be called, three-fifths of the legislature have to agree to sign on. Secretary of State Laurel Lee sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis, Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls on Monday to inform them the number of votes didn’t reach the three-fifths needed to call the special session.
“The time for voting expired at 12:00 p.m. Eastern on April 18, 2022. The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the number of affirmative votes does not constitute three-fifths of the members of both houses of the Legislature,” Secretary Lee wrote.
Lawmakers had to respond to the poll by noon on Monday, Lee explained. Only 17 of the state’s 40 senators responded by the deadline while 52 of the 120 members of the House of Representatives responded, according to the letter.
Of the legislators who responded, 64 voted for calling a special session on the property insurance crisis. Five voted against calling a special session.
The results of the poll, released by the secretary of state, show the five lawmakers who voted against the special session were:
- Sen. Tom Wright, R-Port Orange
- Rep. James Buchanan, R-North Port
- Rep. Traci Koster, R-Safety Harbor
- Rep. Ralph Massullo, Jr., R-Beverly Hills
- Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, R-St. Augustine
Full poll results released by Secretary of State Lee:
“As the affirmative votes failed to meet the statutorily required number, the Department of State will not fix the day and hour of a special session,” Secretary Lee wrote in her letter.
While the legislative maneuver initiated by Brandes failed, Gov. DeSantis announced Monday he would sign a proclamation this week to call a special session in May for lawmakers to address the insurance crisis. The governor said he would be working with legislative leaders to set those dates for the session next month.
State legislators are already being called back to Tallahassee this week for a separate special session to handle the redrawing of the state’s congressional maps.