Thursday, March 12, 2015

Florida Senate Presidential Primary Bill Unanimously Clears Another Committee Hurdle

With the Florida House version of a presidential primary date clarifying bill now headed to the state Senate, the upper chamber version waved through a second committee. By a vote of 12-0, SB 7036 passed the state Senate Rules Committee and will now head to the Senate floor for consideration before the full body.

FHQ does not really mean to harp on this, but again, this bill, like the House version, only simplifies and clarifies the date of the presidential preference primary in Florida. The date does not change. If the Republican Party of Florida maintains a variation of the winner-take-all allocation plan, the primary date would be on March 15 under the current law. If these bills now navigating the legislative process are passed and signed into law, the presidential primary would be on March 15. Same date.

Let's have a look at post-Rules Committee analysis of the bill for a moment. Here are two important sections that point out the problem.
Florida law, adopted in 2013, provides that the Presidential Preference Primary (“PPP”) for the major political parties takes place in a presidential election year on the earliest Tuesday that complies with the parties’ rules for delegate selection without incurring a penalty. Pursuant to this statutory formula, the 2016 Florida PPP is currently scheduled for March 1, 2016. [Emphasis FHQ's]
The earliest date "that complies with the [national] parties' rules for delegate selection without incurring a penalty" is not March 1 in Florida's case. It would be, but the RPOF seems intent on using some form of winner-take-all allocation in 2016. That means that a winner-take-all primary would "incur a penalty" before March 15.

There is nothing in that Florida statute that prevents Florida Republicans from utilizing a winner-take-all method. There is no specification as to the type of penalty that Florida cannot incur (i.e.: a timing/scheduling violation or an allocation violation). The current law simply calls for the Florida primary to occur on the earliest date that is not penalized.

The bill analysis even later on mentions the 50% penalty that would be levied against a state for holding anything other than a proportional primary or caucus before March 15.
Other rules governing delegate selection are set out by the national parties. For the 2016 cycle, the rules provide that only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina may hold a primary or caucus March 1; other states may begin holding their contests on March 1, but if they go prior to March 15 the delegates must be apportioned proportionally. The first date for a “winner-take-all” primary under the current RNC rules is March 15, 2016. States (other than the four granted specific exemptions) conducting a “winner-take-all” primary between March 1 and March 14 will lose 50% of their delegates. [Emphasis FHQ's]
The intention in 2013 when the current law came on the books may not have been to cede the date-setting authority to the Republican Party of Florida, but that is essentially what has happened here. The law basically prevents Florida from being penalized by the national parties by shifting the date to whichever date is both earliest and not penalized. It just so happens that while the RNC allows variation in the method of delegate selection across states, it also has attempted to deter states from allocating those delegates in a winner-take-all fashion before March 15.

...with a penalty. A 50% penalty.

The Florida presidential primary cannot be on March 1 because Florida Republicans have a winner-take-all allocation plan in their bylaws. That type of allocation would incur a penalty before March 15. Thus the earliest date on which the presidential primary can occur -- in order to follow Florida law -- is March 15.

The date is the same, but the proposed change in language in the law would clarify and simplify the date of the primary.

Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

No comments: