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Big budget questions headed to House and Senate presiding officers

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House and Senate negotiators agreed on $40 million in water projects and a $23 million higher education budget Sunday, but major decisions on charter schools, Lake Okeechobee restoration, and more remained unsettled.

Carlos Trujillo and Jack Latvala, respectively the House and Senate budget chairmen, made progress during what Latvala said would be their last meeting — although Trujillo said they’d meet once more, possibly on Monday morning.

“We are going to have another conference committee only for the conforming bills,” Trujillo told reporters. “It’ll happen within the next 48 hours at the latest.”

The chambers must wait three days to vote on a budget bill, but conforming bills require only 24 hours’ rest, he said. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn Friday.

Regardless, clearly major policy and spending questions involving health care, the environment, school construction, criminal justice, and more will fall to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron.

“Ag and environment is one that we have a lot of work to do. In our subcommittees, we really struggled on that one,” Trujillo said.

And the public might not know what the big decisions are until the presiding officers reach deals and present the final bill.

“Just like any issues that bump, it will ultimately be laid on the desk,” Trujillo said.

“It’ll be laid on for 72 hours. Members will be able to debate and, ultimately, vote on the budget.”

Budget conferees spent the weekend wheeling and dealing. See here, here, and here.

Sen. Rob Bradley, chairman of the environmental budget subcommittee, emphasized the conference process’ accomplishments.

“We’ve resolved the water projects, which is obviously something that’s very important to a lot of the members. So, that was a big step forward in that area of the budget, to resolve that dispute between the two sides today. Everybody’s happy and we move on to the rest of the budget,” Bradley said.

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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