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Budget conference to begin this weekend

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Legislative leaders issued a joint statement on the 2016-17 state budget Thursday night: Members, We are pleased with the progress President (Tom) Lee and Chair (Richard) Corcoran (the Senate and House budget chiefs) have made and are optimistic we will be ready to begin the budget conference this weekend. We will update you as early as possible tomorrow, so you can make the appropriate travel arrangements. Thank you for your patience as we work through this important process. We look…

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Rick Scott calls session ‘successful’ – but still hasn’t got what he wants

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Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday suggested, with as much subtext as he could muster, that lawmakers need to come around on his two main budget goals for 2016-17: $1 billion in tax cuts and $25o million for business incentives. After all, legislative leadership passed their priority bills early on, which Scott happily signed. The message was clear: You got yours, I want mine. “We’ve had a very good Session. It’s all going to be successful,” Scott told reporters after a bill…

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No more ’70s paneling: Florida Senate readies for a refresh

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Say goodbye to all those yards of fake-wood laminate: The Florida Senate will be shedding the 1970s look of its chamber with a nearly $5 million renovation this year. Senate President Andy Gardiner, in a Jan. 6 memo to fellow senators, said the remodeling will begin this summer. A copy of the memo was provided to FloridaPolitics.com on Monday. “In my view, we are guests in this building and we have an important responsibility to adequately preserve and maintain areas of the…

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Andy Gardiner questions impact of changed Seminole Compact, gambling bill

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Senate President Andy Gardiner says he’s still unclear whether changes made this week to the proposed gambling deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida would violate an existing deal between the two. “We probably have to get some revenue estimating numbers to find out,” he told reporters after Thursday’s floor session. “There are some that will believe it affects the existing compact, and if it passes, the existing compact will go away.” The tribe already has paid Florida more than…

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Legislature wants to be dropped from federal redistricting lawsuit

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The Republican-led Florida Legislature is asking a federal judge to dismiss the House and Senate from an ongoing lawsuit challenging the state’s congressional map. Lawyers for the House and Senate filed the request Tuesday. The state Supreme Court last month approved a new map for Florida’s 27 congressional districts that will result in changes to the state’s political landscape. A spokeswoman for Senate President Andy Gardiner said he does not see a reason for the Legislature to defend the court…

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Senate committee passes 2 key bills expanding health care access

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Bills that would iron out rules for direct primary care contracts and encourage healthcare companies to give free health care to low-income Floridians passed the Senate Committee on Health Policy Monday. SB 1144, sponsored by Niceville Republican Sen. Don Gaetz, would allow new medical facilities to bypass a lengthy review process known as “certificate of need” if they commit to giving free health care to low-income patients. “This regulatory framework promotes access to care, while protecting safety net providers from…

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Senate budget eliminates direct funding for youth mentoring

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State Sen. Joe Negron, a former budget panel chief, told his colleagues last month in an acceptance speech for his upcoming Senate presidency that the state must do more for its troubled children and teens. “We should not and we will not tolerate serious wrongdoing by young people but, at the same time, let’s not criminalize adolescence,” he said, according to the Senate Journal’s version. Most experts agree that after-school mentoring programs, such as those offered by Big Brothers Big Sisters, are effective at…

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