There’s no hanky drop. But there will be a #CateSineDie

Don't worry. The rules cover when no ceremony takes place.

There will be no hanky drop for Sine Die this year, the ceremony cancelled for fears of coronavirus exposure. But there still will be a winner for the annual #CateSineDie contest.

Kevin Cate, the communications consultant behind the annual guessing game, said rules establish a procedure in the event no handkerchief falls.

The official rules state: “If no hanky drops because it’s being used to wipe tears due to an extended session, the official sine die time will be the moment the last chamber sine dies (that sounds morbid), budget or no budget (that sounds even worse).”

While a global pandemic isn’t officially outlined, the regulation applies. There’s no ceremony, but lawmakers back in the Capitol Thursday will have to gavel the Session to an end.

That said, the coronavirus may have an impact on who actually wins. Last minute negotiations to provide funding and address expected shortfalls made it take longer to finish budget talks. Since a three-day waiting period is required in the state Constitution before a final budget vote, that has pushed the end of Session well past 60 days.

As an explanation of what CateSineDie is, the moment the Session comes to a close in many Legislatures has been referred to as Sine Die, a Latin term. Cate ties his own name to the moment while encouraging lobbyists, staff, journalists and others interested in The Process to prognosticate the Session close down to a minute.

This year, the competition drew plenty of guesses. Some 67 predictions landed on the “Big Board.”

“It’s as popular as ever,” Cate told Florida Politics.

But most of those have long been dashed. Jennings DePriest made the most optimistic guess, believing Session would actually end two days early.

Two other guesses predicted the Session would end of time, a quaint hope when guesses were due (March 6) and the coronavirus had only been detected in Florida for a week.

A host of other guesses have come and past since that point, including a few entered by Florida Politics staffers. At this point, only five people on the Big Board stand a chance. Sachs Media Group’s Drew Piers and the Florida Prosperity Initiave’s Michael Williams both guessed times on Thursday, at 11:27 a.m. and 12:01 p.m. respectively.

But with “The Price is Right” rules in effect, those times could be left behind. The Pew Trusts’ Chris Lipson, who has a guess of noon on March 25 could pull this off if a gavel slams later than 12:01 p.m. Thursday. And there’s a couple more pessimistic guesses from lobbyist Tim Nungesser and reporter Jim Turner.

Whoever wins, Cate will contribute a $500 donation to a charity of their choice, or if they have none in mind to the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida.

But even with a superbug threatening the population of the world, this good-hearted game draws politicos of all political persuasions to place their bets.

“I think the main reason people in the process love #CateSineDie is twofold,” Cate said. “It’s a sign session is almost over, and it’s something to talk about.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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