It has resembled a defensive football game, with both sides punting for field position until finally -- finally -- there's some progress to the “Sanctuary Contest.”
The bill to ban sanctuary cities in the state has passed the House and, later last night, the Senate, moving forward to Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk. For months both chambers have expressed a desire to pass this bill, yet it repeatedly has passed back and forth between legislative offices.
On Wednesday the House adjusted its version of the bill once again, working until the early morning hours to revamp it and pass it back over. It moved to the Senate on Thursday, with a vote expected by Friday -- with yet another batch of revisions as a realistic fear. Instead, both sides managed to reach a level of compromise, giving ground to the other in order to move this bill to its long-in-the-making conclusion
The bulk of the bill concerned ensuring that state and local law enforcement agencies comply with federal "immigration detainers," which are used when a suspected illegal alien is in custody. The bill from both chambers retains this policy requirement.
But each side identified particular elements they wanted to include and others they preferred to strike. On the House side lawmakers were firm to have a set of penalties in place (including fines, all the way to suspension, or removal from office) for any government official who violates the provision and/or proceed with any type of sanctuary policy.
The Senate resisted this segment, with some stating the measure was too broad and could end up involving those individuals deemed innocent. Meanwhile, the House was pushing back against a Senate amendment, added by Democrats, that exempted the Department of Children and Families from the bill requirements. The argument was that a bill banning sanctuary cities was allowing for a sanctuary department.
Rep. Cord Byrd was a co-sponsor of the House bill and called this particular amendment a “killer to the bill”. He expressed that if the Senate could pass its version without this amendment, senators might be able to move the legislation to signature. On Thursday night the Senate capitulated and had this particular amendment struck from its version.
Adding pressure to the process was the fast-approaching end of the 2019 legislative session. While some overtime had been slated for Saturday work, that has been designated strictly for budget matters. Anything bill-related would have to be finished by Thursday night or go unaddressed, so the last-hour capitulations were brought about in part due to time constraints.
DeSantis kept himself in the loop. The whole way through.
His proactive moves, the moves of a governor still in his honeymoon phase and enjoying wide popularity in the polls, have helped get the bill to the hearing stage in the Senate and leading to actual progress on crafting a passable bill for both chambers. The House may also have taken its cue from the governor, who wanted the 11th hour compromise. Certainly the Senate version the House passed is the “softer” version, with lessened penalties written in.
Byrd had previously said the House version could still see passage with some of the penalty language removed, if that was what is needed. “Our goal is to get a bill that works for law enforcement and works for the governor to sign,” the Neptune Beach Republican said.
“There will be some enforcement,” Byrd said with confidence. As a result, we have finally seen a GOP-favored bill pass the two GOP chambers, to move on to the desk of the GOP governor. Amazing that it took years to play out, a process that sounds so obvious.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.