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Conference committees complete work on budget conforming bills

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The House and Senate staged one last conference committee Friday, agreeing on budget conforming bills containing sweeping policy changes, on public schools, higher education, economic incentives programs and more.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron did the honors personally, leading delegations to a committee room to present and consider offers on the conforming bills.

The $83 billion state budget landed on members desks in the House and Senate at 2:43 p.m., allowing them three days to study the document before an up-or-down vote scheduled for Monday. The conforming bills don’t require that long a wait.

A conference committee finally signed off on the final language on Thursday — too late to allow a vote before the regular session’s scheduled end on Friday, forcing the Legislature to extend into next week.

The bills agreed upon Friday encompass the House’s Schools of Hope charter school and Best and Brightest teacher bonus expansion; governance of university support organizations; new limits on Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida; and more.

The bills are HB 5501, HB 5601, HB 7069, CS/CS/SB 374, and SB 2506.

“I think that’s going to go down as one of the greatest K12 bills in the history of Florida,” Corcoran told reporters.

He and Negron both defended the conference process — reaching agreements on key provisions privately, then meeting in public to present their offers, with no time for members of the public to scrutinize the details.

“These things have been going on for years. I think they went on last year. I think they went on the year before that. They went on the year before that,” Corcoran said.

What’s different is that “there was not one single late-night addition in conference to the budget,” he said.

Additionally, the Senate held Appropriations Committee hearings on bills it knew the House wanted to pass, Negron said.

“These are issues that have been part of the legislative process for a long time,” he 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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