The Bumper stickers in Tallahasee parking lots around the Capitol proclaim "ERA Won't Go Away," and the Florida House of Representatives is ready and eager to make Florida the 36th state to ratify the amendment to the U.S. Constitution.But the Florida Senate, as usual, stands in the way.
The Senate Rules Committee will take up the question at its 8 a.m. meeting here Wednesday but the outcome appears preordained.
Chairman Dempsey Barron is an adamant opponent of ERA and he insists he has no particular strategy in mind for the meeting. "I just plan to hold an orderly regular meeting of the committee and whatever the committee votes is the way it goes."
Most Senate observers expect the committee to kill the amendment unceremoniously. Even if the measure were reported to the Senate calendar, supporters concede a probable 20-20 tie vote as about the best they can expect. It takes 21 votes in the 40-member Senate to ratify.
At the other end of the legislative corridor, the House Rules Committee voted 15 to 9 to approve ERA and send it to the calender for full House debate. As in every recent session of the Florida legislature, the House appears ready to vote favourably but the measure's prime sponsor, Rep. Elain Gordon, of Miami, has requested the speaker to hold it in reserve. Speaker Hyatt Brown, an ERA supporter, has agreed not to bring it to a vote until Gordon requests it.
As long as the measure remains on the House calendar it can be used in the legislative game of horse trading. It happens that one of Barron's primary goals this year is to get some tax breaks designed to lure industry into the state's thinly settled Panhandle. To achieve that, he must get the bills past Miami Sen. Jack Gordon, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committe. Gordon-no kin to Rep. Gordon-is an avid ERA supporter. That's where the horse trading could start.
Populous south and central Florida have been extremely hard hit by the boycott of Florida convention centers by women's organizations. A number of major conventions have already canceled arrangements in Florida. Reports are that the Democratic National Convention might be held in Miami in 1980 if ERA is approved-but not if it fails.
Senate strategy is previous years has been to take up ERA very early in each session to get it out of the way and clear the halls of the swarms of ERA lobbyists. That appears to be the strategy this year also. But if the strategy of Sen. Gordon and Rep. Gordon work, it might be true, as the bumper stickers say, "ERA Won't Go Away."