Friday, May 3rd, is the scheduled end of the 60-day Florida legislative session. Lawmakers are slated to finish the session this week after what some say will be a frenzy of activity. According to the News Service of Florida, that means finishing negotiations by Tuesday on the $90-some billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Because of a constitutionally required 72-hour “cooling off” period, the budget has to be finalized Tuesday for lawmakers to vote on it Friday. While legislators will consider hundreds of bills, the state Constitution only requires them to pass one thing, that being the state budget.
One of the budget issues negotiators have been working on is assistance to areas of the Panhandle devastated by Hurricane Michael last October. While the call for federal aid continues, state lawmakers have agreed on about $200 million for storm-ravaged parts of Northwest Florida, a total described as “peanuts” compared to what is needed. About $40 million is earmarked for local projects, $115 million for hurricane housing and $25 million in grants through the Division of Emergency Management to help local governments with basic operational costs. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has requested $39 million for wildfire assistance. Additional money is also expected for water-related projects that will benefit the storm-impacted areas.
Both the House and Senate will be in session each day this week, the Senate starting at 10:00am, the House at 10:30am, on the fourth floor of the Capitol building.