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Florida Legislature approves $82.3 billion budget, adjourns Sine Die

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The Florida Legislature overwhelmingly approved the state’s $82.3 billion spending plan, with just one lawmaker voting against it.

The Senate passed the fiscal 2016-16 state budget shortly after 5 p.m. Friday with no debate. The House approved the budget 119-1 earlier in the day. State Rep. John Tobia, a Melbourne Beach Republican, was the lone no vote.

“We had a great opportunity to work together and bring forth a great budget,” said House Speaker Steve Crisafulli in remarks following the Sine Die.

The Merritt Island Republican said the Legislature “brought forth great opportunities” this legislative session. And Crisafulli said Floridians “can’t forget the balanced budget that was voted out of this Legislature 159 to 1.”

“That was something to be very proud of,” he said.

The budget vote came one day after House Democrats stood up in support of the budget. Many believe it was designed to send a message to Gov. Rick Scott, who vetoed millions from the state budget in 2015.

“I think we need to notice this historic moment,” said Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, a Tallahassee Democrat, said Thursday. “I have a feeling we’re going to have more unanimity than we have had in the past. I think we all lost a little bit in this budget, but we’ve all gained a little bit in this budget.”

The budget increases public school funding by 1 percent, holds the line on tuition at state colleges and universities, and sets aside $132 million for Everglades restoration projects.

The budget does not include one of Scott’s top priorities — $250 million for an Enterprise Florida fund. It also includes a scaled down version of the governor’s tax cut proposal; cutting $129 million instead of the $1 billion Scott had requested.

Still, the Naples Republican tried brush off the legislative defeats. He declared victory of sorts, announcing plans to go on a 5-city “Million, Billion Jobs Victory Tour” on Monday. He told legislative revelers Friday they had a lot of be proud of, and called the 2016 legislative session a “very good session.”

Senate President Andy Gardiner declared a personal victory Friday. His chamber language to a health insurance bill that requires health insurance contracts to cover speech therapy, occupational therapy physical therapy and applied behavior analysis services for individuals with Down Syndrome. They are already required to be covered for people with autism spectrum disorder.

“Eight years ago, we ended session with an issue that was not resolved,” he said. “It got resolved tonight.”

The budget, and a host of other bills that passed Friday, now heads to Scott for his approval and vetoes.

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