TALLAHASSEE -- The fierce fight to crack down on illegal immigration ended -- for this year -- in the Florida Legislature on Friday when House and Senate lawmakers reached the end of the 60-day session without an agreement.
State senators signed off on their more lenient proposal on Wednesday. But by then, it was too late for the House to take up the measure.
On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott told a Fox-affiliated radio station in the Florida Panhandle that lawmakers should have passed an immigration bill -- but there’s always next year.
“Weve got the next session, Scott said in an appearance on “Freedom in the Morning with Wolfe and Andi.” “We’ve got to get ready for the next session and let everybody we elect know that it’s important to us.”
Scott campaigned heavily in last year’s Republican primary -- even suggesting a special lawmaking session -- for an Arizona-style proposal, giving law enforcement broader power to check a person’s immigration status and requiring businesses to use the federal government’s E-Verify system.
Scott mentioned his executive order forcing agencies to use E-Verify. “There’s limitation on what you can do through executive order,” he added. “I’ve done what I can.”
The bills drew staunch opposition from a powerful and wide-ranging set of interests, from big business to religious groups to immigration advocates. Yet Republicans are already taking flak from tea-party types for failing to pass any reforms -- a political liability for Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who is running for U.S. Senate.
Haridopolos said Friday he hoped lawmakers could flesh out their immigration questions in time to pass legislation next year.
This year, the House sat on its tougher immigration proposal, HB 7089, as it waited for the Senate to put forth its version of the bill. To take up the Senate’s bill, SB 2040, in the last three days of the session would have required a two-thirds House approval -- a high threshold, considering most Democrats and the legislative Hispanic caucus opposed the two measures.
Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, the bill’s sponsor in the House, all but declared the immigration reform efforts dead late Tuesday. Yet that didn’t keep immigrant rights groups from protesting and holding vigils in the state Capitol through Friday, when they thanked lawmakers for not taking up the legislation.
The proposal was so thorny that even Sen. JD Alexander, the budget chief tasked with shepherding the bill on the floor, ultimately voted against the bill.
“I should have probably voted for it,” Alexander, R-Lake Wales, told reporters. “As I got into it more and more, I got more and more uncomfortable with it. I didn’t feel morally I could make that choice.”