- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - With time running out, the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature enters the second week of its special session divided over key spending items dealing with everything from schools to land conservation.

Lawmakers were meeting again Sunday as they race against a deadline to pass a new budget. They have until the end of the month to pass a budget and avoid a partial shutdown of state government.

Legislative leaders have reached agreement on broad spending parameters, but remain at odds over the specifics, including dozens of hometown projects sought by lawmakers. Over the past two days they have been haggling over everything from $10 million for a project at the Kennedy Space Center to $400,000 for a trail planned to be built adjacent to a private toll road in northern Leon County.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano said he expected the pace to get “fast and furious” in the next few days as legislators try to reconcile their differences.

“We’re out of the gate and we’ve got plenty of time to get things accomplished,” said Galvano, a Bradenton Republican.

Both sides have agreed to roughly boost spending on each public school student by 3 percent. But Senate Republicans also want to attach to the budget other changes, including changing the eligibility criteria for a scholarship program aimed at children with disabilities and the eligibility for the state’s popular Bright Futures college scholarship program.

Both issues were considered during the regular session which abruptly ended in late April due to a stalemate between the House and Senate over health care and Medicaid expansion.

Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, said the House has been reluctant to deal with some of those issues because House leaders are concerned they do not have the legal authority to consider them during the special session.

House and Senate budget negotiators are also at odds over how to carry out Amendment 1, the land conservation measure passed last fall by voters. One big sticking point is whether to borrow money to help pay for both Everglades restoration and land acquisition. House leaders are in favor of borrowing the money, while the Senate is opposed. In the past Gov. Rick Scott has strongly opposed borrowing money to pay for construction projects or land buying.

“B-O-N-D is a four letter word,” said Sen. Alan Hays, a Umatilla Republican in charge of the Senate budget committee that oversees environmental spending.

Lawmakers were forced to hold a special session after failing to pass a new budget earlier this year. Legislative leaders on Friday reached a broad deal on how much money to spend in key areas, but they still need to reach agreement on specific spending items.

Negotiations have been tense at times as legislators are publicly questioning why some projects are getting money while others aren’t. Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, questioned the need for the $10 million for the Kennedy Space Center project, while Sen. Nancy Detert complained about money being set aside for projects that weren’t under even consideration during their regular session.

“Nobody’s adding my stuff, that’s all I know,” said Detert, a Venice Republican.

Follow Gary Fineout on Twitter: http://twitter.com/fineout

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide