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Florida lawmakers conclude contentious and emotionally charged session

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From The Current: Florida lawmakers wrapped up a contentious and emotionally charged session on Friday night, spending hours debating and approving measures on abortion, a proposed constitutional amendment on redistricting, and a comprehensive property insurance bill.

The session lurched to a close as the House wrapped up its work shortly before 7 p.m. while the Senate was still debating a nearly $70.4 billion budget. The Senate did not wrap up its work until 8:47 p.m.

The final vote on the budget was 77-43 in the Florida House, while the Senate approved it by a 33-4 vote.

The big question is whether or not Gov. Charlie Crist will veto the budget, or whether he will call lawmakers back to town this summer to consider ethics legislation. Anti-corruption measures were never considered by the Florida House.

But if Crist does veto the budget – or call lawmakers back into a special session – he will find an energized Republican majority that will be ready to battle against him. Crist bolted his party this week to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent candidate.

“This is the governor that calls himself the optimist and it certainly looks today like he’s is more concerned about threatening vetoes and putting political ambitions ahead of policy and principle,” said House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, R-Boca Raton.

Lawmakers normally during election years do not tackle major issues, but that was not the case this year. During their 60 days in Tallahassee, state legislators passed some of the most sweeping education reforms in a decade, reached a landmark gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and managed to reach a balanced budget without going into overtime. They also approved a new agreement with the panel that oversees Florida state university system.

Before they wrapped up work on Friday night, legislators also approved a jobs and tax relief bill.

Some of the major issues that eventually died by the end of the session was an overhaul of the state’s $19 billion Medicaid system as well as a proposal to allow oil drilling near Florida’s coast. Bills to reform the state’s Public Service Commission also died in the waning moments as did a renewable energy bill.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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