This week at the state Capitol the session enters its circus stage. We’ll entertain ourselves with perennial issues, while leaders figure out how to resolve a budget dispute.
A gorilla called LIP and an elephant known as Medicaid expansion are occupying the room used for budget negotiations. And while the House and Senate maneuver behind the scene to prevent the two from disrupting the legislative session by blocking passage of a balanced budget, we have the emotional issue of water, the moral issues of gambling and alcohol, the annual run at growth management and the attempt to reform public employees pension plans to watch.
The bottom line on the budget debate is the Senate wants to balance next year’s spending plan with federal dollars available to expand Medicaid. A shortfall occurs next year with the end of a federal reimbursement program for hospitals. The House said no to the Senate plan. The Senate said let’s talk. The House said fine but don’t expect a different answer from the one it’s been giving for three years.
“I have no intention of changing our position where we are on Medicaid expansion,” said Speaker Steve Crisafulli.
“It’s part of our budget,” said Senate President Andy Gardiner about being ready to start budget negotiations. “Where the House is going to be is totally their prerogative.”
The two need to find a glide path to an on-time May 1 ending of the legislative session. State Sen. Tom Lee said if lawmakers are going to meet that deadline, then some decisions need to be made by the middle of next week.
The week starts with the focus on water. Jimmy Buffett and Carl Hiassen headline the third annual Everglades Day of Action in Tallahassee Tuesday. The rally kicks off at noon at the Old Capitol. The Everglades coalition is promoting the event as an opportunity to lobby lawmakers to buy 46,000 acres from U.S. Sugar to protect drinking water for 8 million people.
Also Tuesday the House Transportation Committee takes up a growth management proposal, House Judiciary Subcommittee considers a prison oversight measure and House Appropriations discusses powered alcohol.
In the Senate, Health Policy holds a confirmation hearing for Surgeon General John Armstrong. The Criminal Justice Committee considers public records exemptions in a body camera bill. The proposal alarms civil rights groups. And the Government Oversight Committee discusses a gift ban exemption that allows local governments to provide lawmakers free rent.
The Senate has quite a day planned for Wednesday. Water is on the agenda when the Senate General Government Committee meets. It will take up state Sen. Charles Dean‘s springs protection bill. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee will consider a one-year extension of the Seminole gambling compact. State Sen. Kelli Stargel’s alimony reform measure goes before the Criminal Justice Committee. State Sen. Oscar Braynon will present his needle exchange bill to Health and Human Services. And Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, will have a confirmation hearing when the Senate Transportation Committee meets.
And if all that is not enough, the Senate will convene Wednesday and take up pension reform for local governments and a growler bill.
The House will meet in session Wednesday and Thursday at 1 p.m..