Florida Legislature begins budget work
BY MARY ELLEN KLAS
Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
TALLAHASSEE — As Florida legislators take out the scalpels and start making decisions this week on which programs will be sliced out of the state budget as a way to start closing the $3.2 billion budget gap, the House and Senate will showcase issues designed to show they’re doing some positive things, too.
Budget committees will meet to do the budget dirty work throughout the week, with the goal of having their chamber’s proposals ready for committee votes next week.
Meanwhile, both the House and Senate will be in sessions this week to deal with a series of high priority bills for their respective Republican leaders. In the Senate, President Jeff Atwater will push for a state referendum asking Congress to call for a balanced budget amendment.
The Senate jobs bill, sponsored by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, is also expected to come to a vote. The measure eliminates permiting requirements for some businesses and offers tax caps and tax incentives to targeted industries.
In the House, Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum’s top priority issue gets fast-track treatment. It would cap the size of contingency fees offered to lawyers hired as outside legal help by his department. The cap is set at $50 million.
The full House will also hear a bill that’s a top priority of the incoming House and Senate Republican leaders: a measure to reestablish leadership funds, the political committees that allow legislative leaders to raise and earmark funds for legislative campaigns.
On Monday, the House Select Policy Council on Strategic and Economic Planning hears a report by the Collins Center on the impact of oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
And on Wednesday, the House Energy and Utilities Committee unveils it plan to tighten rules and regulations for public service commissioners and their staff and takes up a bill to increase incentives for homeowners and businesses to invest in renewable energy. The same day, the House Insurance, Business & Financial Affairs Committee takes up a bill to increase competition for homeowners insurance.
Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at email@example.com