After a constitutionally questionable vote on Gov. Rick Scott's top legislative priority, a tax break for manufacturers, House Speaker Will Weatherford quickly declared the bill passed — despite failing to reach the 80-vote supermajority previously said to be necessary.
But behind the scenes, top Scott officials were not so sure, with one calling the whole scene a "cluster" and another saying that there was "some uncertainty as to whether HB 7007 passed" at all.
Emails obtained by the Times/Herald show top officials from Scott's office and the Department of Revenue were not sure whether the House had run afoul of the Constitution.
"I guess it passed in 7005 (sic). Did it get 2/3 to bypass the mandate issue?" Holger Ciupalo, a chief analyst for Scott, wrote to Christian Weiss, chief economist with the Department of Revenue, hours after the 68-48 House vote on the manufacturing tax cut.
"(HB) 7007: yes. 2/3 no. Go to Sayfie to read all the discussions," Weiss replied, referring Ciupalo to the news website Sayfie Review. "Cluster, but somehow we declare victory."
Weiss and Scott's legislative liaison Renee Fargason also had an email exchange after the vote.
"There is some uncertainty as to whether HB 7007 passed," Fargason wrote. After Weiss said that the bill may be challenged for not receiving a two-thirds majority, Fargason replied:
"Ok thanks! Wasn't sure if they could change the verdict since they didn't have 2/3."
In other emails, government officials passed along copies of the Florida Constitution, highlighting sections that deal with the two-thirds mandate.
Scott signed HB 7007 into law last month. So far, there does not appear to be a lawsuit against the tax cut, which goes into effect next year.
The tax break could cost local governments millions of dollars during its three-year run.
AG silent on immigration plan
A coalition of attorneys general from 35 U.S. states and territories have banded together to support comprehensive immigration reform. But Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is not among them, saying she has not decided whether she supports an overhaul of federal immigration policy such as the one backed by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
"I haven't even weighed in on it yet. We've been so busy working on these (other) issues," Bondi said Tuesday after appearing with Gov. Rick Scott, who signed a bill allocating mortgage settlement dollars.
Bondi said she has not studied Rubio's proposal and is therefore not ready to choose a side. "I'd be glad to get back with you at a later date," she said.
Internet cafe ban okay for now
A federal judge Tuesday rejected a request by two Broward County senior arcades to block key parts of a new law that stemmed from a statewide crackdown on Internet cafes.
U.S. District Judge James Cohn issued a 19-page order that denied a preliminary injunction sought by Boardwalk Brothers Inc. and Play It Again FLA, LLC, which contended that the law was unconstitutional.
In part, the arcades contended the law was vague and arbitrary and denied First Amendment rights of seniors who gather at the amusement arcades.
Cohn rejected those arguments and said the state had legitimate reasons for passing the law, which came after raids at Internet cafes that critics long contended were illegal gambling operations.
While the law was aimed at Internet cafes, its restrictions also affected games offered at senior arcades — causing many to close.
Times/Herald staff writer Tia Mitchell contributed to this week's Buzz, which includes information from the News Service of Florida.