Text: Fla. Legislature
Announces Special Session
Wednesday, December 6,
is the transcript of Florida State Senate President John McKay and Florida Speaker
of the House announcing their call for a special session of the Florida state
legislature to pick its slate of electors on Friday.
JOHN MCKAY: Good
Earlier this afternoon,
Speaker Feeney and I signed a proclamation calling for a special session to
ensure that Florida's voters are not disenfranchised from the 2000 presidential
The action taken today
is done so with considerable reluctance on my part, due to the potential far-reaching
effects of any actions.
What we will do may impact
the course of our country, and that is why I've approached the legislature's
role in this matter in a cautious and thoughtful manner.
My primary objective is
simple: to ensure that the voters of Florida are not disenfranchised.
I've been candid about
who I supported for the presidency. As a citizen of this state, I voted for
George W. Bush. But as Senate president, I took an oath to represent all the
people and not one single person or group.
I embark on a special session,
not to advocate either position of the two protagonists, but as a constitutional
officer with a responsibility to represent the best interests of all Floridians.
On December 12, we may
find ourselves in a position that calls for our involvement should there be
no finality to the contests that are still pending. And it is possible that
there may be more filed before this day is out. It would be irresponsible of
us if we failed to put a safety net in place under the current court conditions.
Once again, if the election
disputes are resolved by December 12, there may be a possibility that the legislature
will not have to act. We're convening on December 8, so that we will be in a
position to act if necessary. We will not meet on either the Jewish or the Christian
sabbath. The current slate of electors that is in front of us, though, may be
tainted because of the Supreme Court actions and other local county voting procedures.
Additionally, a reasonable
person could conclude that the recent Supreme Court actions may cause Congress
not to accept our electors that have already been sent to Washington.
Our sole responsibility
will be to put forth a slate of electors that is untainted and ensures that
Florida's 25 electoral votes count in this election, regardless for whom they
I believe that the electors
should be based upon the vote totals that were available on November 14, and
equally important, on the laws that were in place as of the date of the election
on November 7. I believe that these votes are the least tainted of all.
We must be prudent and
timely in our actions and our behavior. We are not trying to preempt, prejudge,
or predict the election outcome. We are protecting Florida's 25 electoral votes
and over 6 million voters.
I'll take questions in
a few minutes, but first let me let you hear from the speaker of the House.
TOM FEENEY: Thank
you. I believe I'll be a lot shorter than the president.
I'll tell you that I find
this a very solemn and important occasion. And the reason that I have signed
the proclamation today, which President McKay sent to me about 10 or 15 minutes
ago, is that I believe deeply, having studied Article II, Section 1 and having
studied Title 3 and having requested some of the best advice from scholars on
the Constitution and our obligations, that we have a duty to protect Florida's
participation in the Electoral College.
And I have a hope, I believe
most of my colleagues in the House, that the electoral issues may be resolved
without the necessary of the legislature taking final action. But there appears
to be a great risk that our electors are now not within the safe harbor that
the United States Supreme Court described the other day in referring to Title
3 of the United States Code.
I want to tell you that
I'm here and joined with--joining with me is a number of members of the House,
most especially speaker pro tem Sandy Merman (ph). I know the Senate leader,
Representative King, is here. I want to--Senator King. We still think of him
as a representative down in the House, Senator and President McKay.
But I want to tell you
that I have a deep and abiding respect for President McKay and his leadership
And people have suggested
that we're thinking differently or there may be some division. I can assure
you that I have enormous respect for the president, and I think the prudence
that he exercised in making sure that all of his team had a complete comprehension
of the options available to us and the obligations that we may have to undertake,
I think was done so in a marvelously responsible manner.
So, with that, you know...
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker,
can you put any suspicions or fears to rest that you or President McKay have
had any contact with the Bush campaign and that they're giving you instructions
on what to do in this whole matter?
FEENEY: I can't
speak for the Senate president. I can tell you that I'm looking forward to meeting
Secretary James Baker, but that I haven't had any conversations with Secretary
Baker. Matter of fact, the first time, I think, that I was made aware that we
may be signing our proclamation was earlier today. I haven't had any contact
with any members of the Bush team probably since--in a good 24 hours.
FEENEY: So from
my perspective, the actions that we took in the House today, was without any
advice or guidance or counsel or discussion with either campaign, either with
the Gore campaign or the Bush campaign.
QUESTION: What about
MCKAY: Well, just
to answer this gentleman's question, I've met Secretary Baker about three weeks
ago, but I haven't had any conversations with the Bush camp since that moment.
QUESTION: Have you
met with the governor?
MCKAY: Yes, sir?
is obviously of the essence, can you talk about when you meet and what procedures
you would follow? What's your indication of when you have to?
MCKAY: Well, I can
tell you what the Senate will do, I can't tell you what the House will do, since
I'm not familiar with their process.
Well, I guess the Senate
and the House will convene at 12:00 on Friday. In the Senate we will notice
a committee meeting--normally in a special session we have a two-hour notice
before a meeting can convene. In this case, because of the magnitude of the
issue, that committee will meet--the Ethics and Elections Committee, which I
will appoint tomorrow--will meet at 10 a.m. on Monday. It'll be notice for eight
hours and then a special order subcommittee of the Rules Committee, which will
also be appointed tomorrow, will meet thereafter so that we can have a calendar
available, should we have to meet on Wednesday.
QUESTION: When would
you be naming the electors?
The electors? That would not occur until Wednesday, in the event that we convene.
And as the speaker said and as I have said, that may not be necessary. The event
that drops the checkered flag so this process convenes, I believe, is whether
we have finality on the 12th. That still has yet to evolve.
QUESTION: What do
you consider will be the outcome at the 12th?
FEENEY: I believe
that means that all the court contests have been concluded. And if they're concluded,
then we'll see what happens then.
you have said all of them concluded?
FEENEY: All of them
concluded. Pretty straightforward, isn't it?
QUESTION: Does this
proclamation require participation or involvement by the governor?
FEENEY: There may
be a possibility, and the jury's still out as to whether he will have to sign
a letter that accompanies it that is similar to the letter that he--similar
or perhaps identical to the letter that he signed accompanying the earlier certification.
But we don't have an answer to that at this point; other than that there's no
you said that you would name the electors on next Wednesday, that would be the
13th. I mean, you're not concerned about...
MCKAY: In a joint
resolution, our position is...
MCKAY: Our position
is that the electors need to be named in the resolution, but the resolution
hasn't been authored at this point.
QUESTION: But the
13th, Wednesday is the 13th.
is the 13th. That's correct.
QUESTION: So you're
not concerned about December 12 as being a deadline in...
MCKAY: I think my
perspective from talking to all our experts is the 12th is the event that triggers
our ability to act. The 12th is not the date by which we have to act, that is,
in fact, the 18th.
MCKAY: I think that
I've been pretty clear: In the event that there is finality on the 12th, I think
we will have to act regardless of whether it's Gore, Bush or Nader. I am not
representing the Republicans, I'm representing all the people of Florida in
my constitutional capacity.
QUESTION: So you're
saying there's a chance that you'll endorse electors who are for Gore?
MCKAY: I will uphold
my constitutional responsibility.
moving as close as you can here, you've left open a slim possibility, albeit
slim, that the judge in the Seminole County case could certify a new election
result, thereby, as some Republicans have said, making it look like you're now
reacting to a court decision that's bad for Governor Bush. Aren't you concerned
about that appearance?
MCKAY: No, I have
gone through my thought process, Steve, without regard to the evolution and
the various courts, not only here in the state, but also in Washington. I've
tried to study the issue.
I've tried to examine the
issue. I've tried to ascertain when is the appropriate time, if at all, for
the legislature to act. And that happened to coincide with now. Actually, it
didn't come about until 9:30 last night.
QUESTION: ... you
said you were worried about the far-reaching...
MCKAY: I think somebody
MCKAY: ... somebody
had a question for Tom.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker,
yesterday you talked about the (OFF-MIKE) that you would not have to call a
special session. Can you be very clear and direct about what happened between
today and yesterday to cause you to sign the proclamation?
FEENEY: Well, I
had one on my desk that had been signed by the Senate president.
QUESTION: You said
that you were worried about the far-reaching effects. What sort of effects are
you worried? What did you go through in your thought processes, what effect
this could have long-term in the nation, our political process? Can you go through
QUESTION: ... with
yourselves and with each other?
FEENEY: Well, I
am concerned that the potential exists where there is already what Hamilton
referred to as tumult and disorder, that that may continue, and that now the
legislature may be involved. I'm concerned that I've got some good friends in
the Democratic Party, both in the House and elsewhere, that may be upset by
the legislature's participation. I'm concerned that the wonderful institution
of the Florida House and the legislature in general suffer a short-term black
But I will tell you that,
as I have said, that fundamentally I believe that when I took my oath to uphold
the United States Constitution, I did so without qualification. I didn't say
I would do my duty if it was fun or convenient or popular.
I believe deeply that the
way Leader Frankel, on behalf of the Democrats, has conducted herself, Mike
Fasano in our team, we have had very respectful discussions about our obligations,
and I think that we can do that in committee, I think that we can do that on
the House floor.
I believe, candidly, there's
every opportunity that the institution of the Florida House can come out of
this very difficult challenge as strong as it has ever been, and that would
be my goal in the next few days.
So, yes, there are risks,
but those risks pale in comparison to the oath that I took two weeks ago.
MCKAY: Let me just
add. My concerns are identical to Tom's, except with regard to--I'd substitute
House for Senate. I have also a little additional concern, and that is, since
we are treading on ground that hasn't been walked upon before, at least not
in a long darn time, that we proceed very cautiously because this could affect
future elections. And I would not want that to have any negative effect on this
So we're proceeding very
cautiously to date, and we will continue to proceed cautiously.
FEENEY: Well, what
I said yesterday was that I could see the clouds parting a little bit, and based
on some dramatic and positive decisions by Judge Sauls locally, who, by the
way, referred to the safe harbor of Title 3, Section 5, and especially the United
States Supreme Court opinion, which I read very differently than some who have
suggested it's a neutral opinion asking the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider
the opinion that was tossed out when it was vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court.
I read the U.S. Supreme
Court opinion as very clearly instructing the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider
its decision in light of some things that the Florida Supreme Court wasn't fully
asked to consider.
And the two notes that
I've been singing over and over again are Article II, Section 1, and Title 3
of the United States Code.
Now having said that, I
also said that I think, and I've been convinced for some time, that the prudent
thing was to act, just in case, to protect the participation of Floridians in
the Electoral College.
I would note that there
will be--I don't think the president or I expect any formal vote to be taken
until Monday at the earliest when we will have committee meetings in our respective
bodies. Tuesday at the earliest in the House under the timetable we have. So
that there may be intervening acts which eliminate the need for us to take final
But I believe the prudent
thing to do is to start, to be prepared. And if we find a way to do our duty
without bringing the session to a close with a final vote, then I would be the
most pleased man in Florida.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker,
Mr. President, let me ask you both. You mentioned the Democrats and your concern
about your relationship with them. And they certainly have raised concern, not
just about both of you supporting George W. Bush, but about the fact that you
are electors, about the fact that Mr. Feeney ran with Jeb Bush in his unsuccessful
bid for governor. How do you convince the American people, whose votes are all
at stake, that this not partisan but a constitutional concern?
MCKAY: I think what
they need to do is watch us. And I think as they watch us they will find us--that
both the speaker and I carry out our duties very responsibly. The proof's in
the pudding. That's what we're going to see.
QUESTION: Mr. Feeney,
could you also answer that question.
MCKAY: I just--I
finish the process.
FEENEY: I echo the
Thank you very much.