From day to day, the hope that the 2017 Florida Session could end on-time in early May, or the dread that it pushes into over-time, flip flops as much as the flip flops all law makers and lobbyists want to be wearing come May 5.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran in recent days has kept a positive outlook that things could end on time. On the other hand, from the other chamber, Senate Appropriation Chair Jack Latvala is less optimistic.
What are the sticking points that could take this session past the expiration date, essentially snatching summer vacations from hundreds of lobbyists and lawmakers, desperately in need of a break and a tan?
Put simply, it’s all basically budget related with a gap as large as the chasm between Republicans Governor Rick Scott and House Speaker Corcoran between the House and the Senate for their proposed budgets.
The Senate beat the House to the punch when it published an initial budget draft of $83.2 billion—which doesn’t account for another $2 billion state universities receive via tuition. The House came online shortly after with its draft for $81.2 billion, leaving a difference of billions.
Here’s the quick list issues that are expected to cause fights, in no particular order…
Gaming. If both sides can reach an agreement, Florida could receive at least $2 billion in additional revenue from the Seminole Tribe during next seven years. There’s already a guarantee for $3 billion. House Republicans lean toward restrictions on gambling, while the Florida Senate wants to expand it.
Public education. This is important to Speaker Corcoran, specifically, creating charter schools near other public schools that aren’t up to snuff. Also up the priority list in this fight are teacher incentives and property taxes.
Health care. The Senate proposal gives the Agency for Health Care Administration $27.7 billion which would be used to help administer the Medicaid program. The House gives the same agency $26.4 billion. But despite one billion- dollar difference here, it’s possible the cost of health care can be hammered out without much arguing.
Lake Okeechobee. The singular priority of Senate President Joe Negron, SB10 passed the Senate floor earlier today. But with a price tag of $1.5 billion, it’s not going to be easy for Corcoran and the conservatives in the House to cough up the money. Especially since the amended plan accomplishes even less than the original, and the price tag is still so high. If it does pass, it will almost certainly do so at the expense of EFI, which Negron and Senator Latvala will be forced to offer up in trade.
Visit Florida. Kill it or reduce the budget? Despite Corcoran’s deep rooted dislike for VF, it looks as if it may survive but doubtful it will be with the same large budget of approximately $80 million. The House has included $25 million in the proposed budget for this organization that also receives private funding. The Senate does better at a proposed $76 million.
Enterprise Florida. Kill it mercifully or slowly with pain? Corcoran wants this done, and seemingly doesn’t care how. The House has already voted to eliminate it and therefore has zero in the budget for EFl. Senate Appropriation Chair Jack Latvala has sided with Governor Scott who wants his creation to continue to exist. The Senate has included $80 million for EFl.
Both chambers will most likely vote on their proposals April 13. Then negotiations can start.
To be done by May 5, legislators have to be ready to put the budget to bed by May 2 to meet the 72-hour waiting period as required by law, before the final vote is taken.