Lawmakers are considering a proposal that would use hundreds of millions of dollars in state money to hold local education property taxes steady, as House and Senate negotiators continued working toward an agreement on the budget.
The legislative session has once again become a waiting game.
Lawmakers, reporters and lobbyists spent much of the week waiting for talks between House and Senate leaders to lead to a deal on budget "allocations" --- the area-by-area breakdown on where the state will spend around $80 billion in the year that begins July 1.
Word of the deal finally came late Friday afternoon, leading to another waiting game --- for the meetings of budget conference committees that will decide how to actually spend the money in each area.
Members, bills are dying.
Those four words --- or something like them --- have long been used by legislative committee chairmen and presiding officers to try to get lawmakers to focus on the task at hand or to move quickly through contentious agendas. The line also happens to fit what starts happening as the session enters its second half.
Would the Legislature include more average Floridians if the job paid more?
That was the idea behind a bill (SB 712), pitched this week by outgoing Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner. The bill would have increased most lawmakers' pay by more than $20,000, to $50,000. The Senate president and the House speaker --- who already make more than their colleagues --- would have seen a smaller boost but still pulled in a higher income, at $57,000.
The legislative battle over charter schools kicked into high gear Wednesday, as measures dealing with educational choice advanced in the House and the League of Women Voters hammered a constitutional amendment that could increase the number of charters in Florida.
Of several education bills that landed on the House floor Wednesday, some of the sharpest debate centered on legislation (HB 7029) that would tighten accountability for charter schools in exchange for relaxing some limits on how often high-performing charter providers can open new facilities.
Budgets have been approved. Committee meetings are dropping off. And the major differences between the House and the Senate are coming into focus
The halfway point of the legislative session passed this week, and lawmakers were already trying to set the stage to avoid the kind of slow-motion train wreck that accompanied the end of their 2015 gathering. With a more modest gap between spending plans this year --- and no unbridgeable policy divides like last year's fight over health-care spending --- there's hope, at least, that the Legislature can finish its work on time.
Who says lawmakers never address thorny issues in an election year?
Whether any of the proposals that ate up time and energy this week are like
This is the part of the legislative session where the House and the Senate's honeymoon --- especially one as dubious as this year's --- begins to face its first serious test. The opening weeks and the easy compromises have been sent to the governor for his signature. It gets harder from here.
Senate budget writers are considering a larger education spending increase than Gov. Rick Scott sought, though lawmakers are still considering how to offset an increase in local property taxes that helps pay for the historic number.
The initial proposal from the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee would boost funding for the main public-school spending formula by almost $650.6 million in the year beginning July 1, more than the $507.3 million increase that Scott has touted as record-breaking.
When lawmakers return to Tallahassee every year for the legislative session, they are usually more or less proactive, passing legislation and holding committee hearings that shape the news that comes from the Capitol.
Every so often, though, outside events tend to shape what goes on in the Legislature more than the members of the House and Senate do. This week was one of those periods.