In surprise move, Senate votes on immigration bill
Without debate, the Florida Senate unexpectedly voted Wednesday morning 23-16 to approve SB 2040, a controversial immigration crackdown bill.
The measure looked dead late Tuesday after senators shot down an amendment that would have made the bill tougher by pushing for a broader use of the federal government's E-Verify system to check the immigration status of workers.
Dozens of immigration activists were ordered to leave the state Capitol building for violating an order by the Sergeant-at-Arms Donald Severance to not engage in any singing while sitting in the Senate's visitors gallery. The activists and immigrants, wearing matching orange "We Are Florida" T-shirts, began singing immediately after the vote.
For the House to take up the Senate's bill, it would require a two-thirds approval from the House chamber, because it is so late in the annual lawmaking session. It could be difficult for the House to meet that standard, with the legislative Hispanic and black caucuses -- and most, if not all, Democrats -- opposing SB 2040 and HB 7089.
Senator Jim Norman, R- Tampa, center, watches immigration protestors leave the visitors gallery in the Senate, Wednesday. The protesters sang in protest after the Senate passed the bill. [Photos By SCOTT KEELER, Times]
--PATRICIA MAZZEI AND STEVE BOUSQUET