This week at the Florida Capitol battle lines will be formally drawn for the 2015 state budget debate. Both the House and Senate will hold floor sessions to discuss their respective budgets. Each chamber could approve a state spending plan for next year by week’s end, and given that they are presently separated by $4.2 billion the two are poised to deliver to the other a bureaucratic slap-across- the-face challenge to a duel.
The differences in the spending plans can be explained from different perspectives. The Tallahassee Democrat, hometown newspaper for thousands of state employees, breaks them down this way; Gov. Rick Scott recommended cutting 1,353 state jobs, the House proposes eliminating 851 positions and the Senate would increase the state payroll by adding 35 jobs.
The Senate is working on a $80.4 billion proposal. The House has in mind spending $76.2 billion next year.
The respective budget proposals reflect the House and Senate priorities. As Sen. Tom Lee had said it would the Senate addresses a funding gap created by the end of a federal reimbursement program for hospitals. The Senate wants to draw down $2.8 billion from the federal government and set up an insurance exchange for the uninsured. The House does not include the money in its proposal, has not consider any plan to bridge the funding gap in health care; Speaker Steve Crisafulli said he expects Gov. Scott’s negotiations with Washington to be successful.
The House has lined up behind a $690 million tax cut package. Senate President Andy Gardiner said if the House rejects the Senate health care plan and the extra money from Washington then tax cuts may not be doable. By week’s end Lee and House Appropriations chair Rep. Richard Corcoran will move to center stage and begin resolving the differences between the two spending plans. They will have the month of April to complete their work. Lee and other Senators have raised the possibility of the session going into overtime.
Also this week the Senate Health Policy committee will take up a low-THC fix for the Charlotte’s Web law approved last year but blocked by lawsuits from being implemented. A proposal was introduced last week by Sen. Rob Bradley and approved by the Regulated Industries Committee which is self-executing, bypassing a rulemaking process which has drawn lawsuits and delayed the start of a medicinal marijuana industry.
“We had no idea the amount of money involved, the amount of interest that came and I believe this recent challenge, once it’s settled there will be another and there be another and if you weren’t selected there would be another so I believe it is time to act,” said Sen. Aaron Bean speaking in support of the Bradley fix.
Bean chairs Health Policy and can expect a packed committee room when the proposal is brought up for comment.
Also this week, it’ll be just another Monday at the state capitol with lawmakers talking about adult beverages and mini-flying robots with video cameras. Sen. Gwen Margolis’s effort to evaporate powdered-alcohol drinks goes before the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee and the Criminal Justice Committee sets its sights on a bill protecting private lives from private eyes. It’ll consider Sen. Dorothy Hukill’s proposal restricting the use of aerial drones to track people.
Tuesday Sen. Jeff Brandes’ proposal protecting insurers from “bad faith lawsuits” is up in the Senate Banking Committee. The Health Policy Committee will consider a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion as well as a medicinal cannabis proposal; while Regulated Industries takes up Sen. Denise Grimsley’s idea to allow physician assistants and advanced nurse practitioners prescribe more medicines, Judiciary looks at Sen. David Simmons Uber insurance bill and Sen. Greg Evers will carry his take a gun to school bill before the Pre-K-12 Committee.
Also Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will meet in a conference call to discuss legal representation in the Sunshine Law suit stemming from the ouster of former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey and Congressman Daniel Webster is expected to attend a Leon County Republican’s “Seer Sucker Soiree” at the Old Capitol.
Wednesday is budget day; both chambers bring their state spending proposals to the floor. Lawmakers will finish work on their respective budget proposals Thursday and then leave town for the Easter weekend.