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Bill to start 2018 Legislative Session in January advances in Florida Senate

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

The 2016 Florida Legislative Session now in mid-February is more than halfway complete, an anomaly that usually happens once every decade. Under a bill, SPB 7076, that narrowly passed through the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on Tuesday, the early start could happen again in 2018.

It passed on a party-line vote, with all three Democrats on the panel dissenting.

Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens said he’s not sure the Legislature could be provided with sufficient economic data that early to project the following year’s budget. He asked whether the state’s chief economist, Amy Baker, had weighed in on the legislation. He worried economic projections could be inaccurate, compelling the Legislature to return for a Special Session.

Miami Republican Anitere Flores, who proposed the legislation a couple of years ago, downplayed Clemens’ concerns, saying that Special Session are just part of state government.

Flores said two compelling reasons make early Sessions practical on a more regular basis.

Unlike March to May Sessions, Flores says, the Legislature can actually get through a full nine weeks of a Session. That generally doesn’t happen in the spring, when it shuts down for a week  to observe Easter and Passover.

Flores says she’s heard consistent praise from state agencies and universities for the  early sessions, because they can prepare their annual budgets on earlier

Legislators every 10 years meet in January to draw new congressional and legislative districts. The session this year will end just days before Florida’s presidential primary election on March 15.

Miami Democrat Oscar Braynon opposed the measure because he said it’s too darned cold to meet in Tallahassee in the winter.

Committee Chairman Garrett Richter told Braynon he’d get him a hat to deal with the cooler temperatures, which, while colder than in March and April are still better weather than about 90 percent of the country in wintertime.

The measure now advances in the Senate.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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