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House leaders pledge to get beyond last week's quarrel

Florida House members David Rivera, left, R-Miami, who as rules chairman decides which bills are heard, and Dan Gelber, D- Miami Beach, the House Democratic leader, talk Monday.

Scott Keeler | Times

Florida House members David Rivera, left, R-Miami, who as rules chairman decides which bills are heard, and Dan Gelber, D- Miami Beach, the House Democratic leader, talk Monday.

TALLAHASSEE — Trying to explain one of the longest, strangest showdowns in the modern history of the Florida Legislature, Rep. Dan Gelber went to the well of pain and redemption: country music.

"It's my hope we can put the rawness and the bitterness of the weekend in our rearview mirror," the House Democratic leader said Monday, appropriating a Mac Davis song about leaving a dreary Texas town behind.

Two days after emerging from a more than 16-hour battle that ended at 2:17 a.m. Saturday, House Democrats and Republicans said they hope to leave it as a footnote and finish the next two weeks with some semblance of cooperation.

"We don't have time for drama," said House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-Miami. "We have a job to do."

There was little mention of the ordeal during a meeting of a budget committee Monday and, in a great twist of irony, the bill that caused the logjam on Friday was approved unanimously.

"I think the temper tantrum was much to-do about nothing," Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, said after the vote.

Angered that Republicans blocked debate on the legislation, which deals with the FCAT, Democrats employed a procedural move Friday requiring every bill be read word-for-word. The excruciating process elicited raw emotion but also left weary lawmakers playing practical jokes on each other.

Someone stole Rep. Adam Hasner's pen and BlackBerry, then left him a ransom note saying he would not get them back unless Democratic bills were added to the agenda.

"It was a frustrating experience because nothing was really accomplished. It was 'who is going to blink first?' and I'm not even sure where we stand now," said Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs.

He said a few constituents fired off e-mails Saturday to decry the meltdown as childish.

Rubio, who quickly denounced the move as a "stunt," apparently made amends with Gelber early Monday as they wound up on the same plane headed to Tallahassee from Miami. They also saw former Gov. Jeb Bush at the Miami airport.

In the clearest sign of easing tension, Republicans added several Democratic bills to the agenda for today and indicated three noncontroversial bills stripped from consideration on Friday in an act of retaliation would come up as well.

But Rivera, the rules chairman, seemed to dangle the possibility before Democrats, saying the bills would be heard pending a "positive development of the agenda."

Some Democrats remain incensed at the move and complain that very few of their bills have advanced in the House. If things do not change, they promise another push-back.

Last session, Rubio's first as speaker, 46 local and general bills by Democrats passed the House. This year, six have advanced, according to an analysis by the House minority office.

Two weeks remain before the end of session.

House leaders pledge to get beyond last week's quarrel 04/21/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 8:13pm]
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