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Florida Legislature Committee Meets to Consider Special Session

Aired November 30, 2000 - 11:07 a.m. ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Want to shift our focus now away from ballots and focus now on that special committee talking about a special session still under way right now. We'll dip in and see what we can learn.

CNN's Mike Boettcher standing by. He will talk us through it as well. First we will listen.


BETTY HOLZENDORF (D), FLORIDA STATE SENATE: I do not want this state to be torn up and disrupted because of that win. If my Republican colleagues, who are in a majority, who really don't need me to be here other than to make up the number 40, want to go into session and solidify the election for George W. Bush, then we need to make that clear and go ahead and do it.

I think when we finish, we're headed right back to the federal courts. Because we have a set of electors, that have been selected by the political party for George W. Bush. We have a set of electors that have been selected by the Democratic Party for Al Gore. We have had an election that is, at this point, attempting to be decided, and whichever side prevails, those are the electors that we have selected and if that process doesn't work, the Florida Constitution kicks in, and they have another process that addresses that.

Our meeting in special session to elect new electors by a process of -- other than the process that is already in the Florida statutes, that existed prior to the election, which all of your scholars at the podium said had to be in place, says to me that we are only talking about more court challenges.

It's time for us to be legislators, to make laws, not to interpret and not to implement them, but to make them. And not allow the three branches of our government to function.

I didn't want to come up here for the meeting. I'm certainly not coming back next week for a special session that has been called by the press. And I want to make it perfectly clear that my state, the state of Florida, is more important to me than anything else we're attempting to do. No matter who the president of these United States will be, we have to pledge our support. But we need to make sure that we don't have a president under a cloud, but more than that, that the president does not put this legislature under a cloud.

Madame president, I thank you for allowing me to make the comments, but I feel very strongly about this, I feel so strongly about it, until I have even thought about just walking away from this process totally. We cannot continue to allow these things to disrupt the reason that we are here to solve problems in our state.

This is not a problem of this state. There are courts in process right now to solve this problem. Can you imagine the legislature -- the legislature of the state of Florida, sworn constitutional people, trying to overturn the Florida Supreme Court? Talking about the judges of the highest court in the state of Florida? What are we going to say when the United States Supreme Court rule? Are we then going to begin to dis the judges of the United States Supreme Court?

We need to sit back, stop, re-think where we are, our positions, and let this process work. We put it in effect. We voted for it. And we're not willing to allow it to work, because some Harvard scholar told us that we shouldn't?

Thank you, Madame president.

HEMMER: You're listening to special committee here of lawmakers, 14 in total, eight Republican, six Democrats, considering the issue of a special session.

Mike Boettcher with us now live. One would assume they are going to go to it eventually. But it is a question of how long the debate goes at this point.

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They will make the decision some time this afternoon. It will be a vote 8-6 along partisan lines, the majority is Republican in this legislature. They will likely recommend that the special session be held on Tuesday, but their single purpose right now is to recommend to the leadership of the House and the Senate, both Republicans, that they call a special session.

At that point, those two men, Senator McKay (ph) and Rep. Feeny (ph) will have a signing ceremony, and that could happen probably tomorrow, in which they will call the special session and it looks like Tuesday is the date for the beginning of that.

HEMMER: Before we go back in and hear more testimony inside from the lawmakers. If they go into special session, is there a time limit on that, a day? two days? three days? a week?

BOETTCHER: Well, it depends. They want to get this bill passed. But there is a debate going on between the Republican senators and the Republican representatives. The senators want to wait until the very end, until they have to act.

HEMMER: Closer to the... BOETTCHER: Closer to the December 12th date. Because they don't want to make this look too partisan. They want to make it look like something they have to do because their votes, their 25 electoral votes are in jeopardy. The House is more active in this, more activist, and they want to proceed quickly. But I think there is going to be a compromise worked out.

OK, let's go back inside again. We will listen to the lawmakers again continue their discussion on the special committee, regarding the special session.


DWIGHT STANSEL (D), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: When I was very young and to this day, once a year, we would go back to my mother's church for homecoming. And as I became a teenager and become somewhat more cognizant of what the preachers were saying, that's the age of accountability, I listened to each preacher at each church read scripture from the same Bible, the same verse, and preach a different sermon.

We've heard the great legal minds speak to us. They interpreted the laws, expressed their opinions, and to be honest with you, I've learned a lot. It's been very enlightening from Professor Yoo (ph) to Professor Ekerman (ph), each were good at advocating the agendas of their host, obviously.

Again, it is similar to the preachers that I've listened to all my life. Forty years later, the same scriptures, just this the Constitution, different sermons and different interpretations.

But it's sort of been good that Madame Chairman allowed opposing views for everyone. Anything I feel that this legislature does is certainly going to be subject to the contested...

HEMMER: The second of six Democrats on that committee now expressing their viewpoints, certainly there are Republicans as well. What's their position right now?

BOETTCHER: Their position, Bill, is that the Constitution gives them the sole right, not the judiciary branch, not the executive branch, but the legislative branch, to name those electors if there is a doubt of the outcome of the election. And they say two things can trigger that: one is the deviation from already written election law, and they claim that the Florida Supreme Court deviated from the law. So they have that first trigger.

And secondly, there is a time problem. That coming up to December 12th, when those electors must be sent up to Washington, that the outcome is in doubt, they must act. They say they have both of those things going on at the same time. They have to act, and that has been their debate before this committee.

HEMMER: We will send you back inside. Come on back, OK?

Once again, about two hours ago, the Gore team went to the Florida Supreme Court behind us, 52-page brief, trying to get things sped up here in Tallahassee. That is their effort. We will track it throughout the day now.

Back to Daryn and Stephen in Atlanta.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Bill, thank you very much.



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