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  1. Florida Politics

Many outside groups aren't fighting to be part of special session

Published May 8, 2015

TALLAHASSEE — The list of issues that were killed or left in limbo by the abrupt end of the Florida Legislature's session 10 days ago is a long one: from gambling to expanded gun rights to medical marijuana.

Special interest groups whose issues weren't resolved this spring have no guarantee they'll secure a spot on the agenda for the special session scheduled to start June 1.

And many of them aren't even trying, opting instead for a rallying cry they might make after a more typical session: Wait until next year.

The budget will be the focus of the session scheduled for June 1-20, but House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner can agree to put any legislation they want on the table. That could include issues left unresolved in the regular session.

Yet with the budget up in the air and a major rift between the House and Senate over health care funding, many groups think lawmakers will keep the parameters for the session narrowly focused.

"Nothing significant on energy policy is going to happen in the Florida Legislature because of the influence of the utilities," said Susan Glickman, Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "We wouldn't be pushing something in the special session."

Similarly, the National Rifle Association is waiting until next year to renew its push to allow concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses.

"The things that were worth working on this year will be worth working on next year," NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said. "All of these good pieces of legislation will be back until they pass."

Advocates for low-THC cannabis say they hope to garner some attention during a special session but there is no effort to drum up public outcry like earlier this year.

"We're relying on the advocates that have been advocates for this all along," said Ryan Wiggins, a communications consultant who's been involved in pushing legislation to speed up the legalization of the drug, called Charlotte's Web. "For the most part it's up to the discretion of the speaker and the president."

The Seminole Tribe hasn't expanded an advertising campaign started during the regular session. Though it's not necessarily expecting traction during the special session, the Tribe still wants the state to negotiate and renew its gambling compact soon, spokesman Gary Bitner said.

Staffers for Gardiner say there haven't been many requests for legislation other than the budget to be on June's agenda.

"The president hasn't received any official correspondence asking for specific bills to be added to the call," said Gardiner spokeswoman Katie Betta.

She said that's likely because Gardiner has been clear that he only wants to consider budget-related bills in June. Concerns such as health care coverage for low-income Floridians and money set aside by voters last November for conservation are expected to be wrapped up in those budget debates.

Not all special interests, however, are abandoning hope for legislative action next month.

Uber, the ride-sharing company at odds with taxicabs in many Florida cities, is among the exceptions. The company is asking people to sign an online petition requesting that lawmakers consider a bill to regulate ride-sharing at the state level and ban local governments from instituting their own rules.

In a similar move, Advocates with the Florida Clean Water Network is circulating a letter opposing the drilling process known as fracking, as well as proposals to dredge grass beds in the Santa Rosa Sound. Their goal is to get as many signatures as possible to keep up the pressure opposing the projects.

In an email plea to supporters, executive director Linda Young wrote: "Thank goodness for the dysfunction between the House and Senate."

The News Service of Florida contributed information to this story. Contact Michael Auslen at mauslen@tampabay.com. Follow @MichaelAuslen.