Despite some early hiccups, Florida’s Republican legislative leaders are agreeing to a handful of the governor’s priorities. But the House and Senate had to secure wins of their own in last week’s special session before heading home.
Lawmakers made it out of their three day special session on time, but it wasn’t exactly pretty.
“So I’m going to hold my nose today,” Rep. David Richardson (D-Miami Beach) said of one measure. “I’m going to vote for this bill even though it does one great thing—and that is restores funding to Visit Florida, but it also sets up a slush fund for the governor.”
“So members, welcome to sausage making.”
The final day of the legislature’s brief special session played out the way many regular sessions do: last minute amendments, bills bouncing from chamber to chamber and sweeping deals secured at the eleventh hour. But once the votes were cast, the state’s Republican leaders put their bickering aside and met in the rotunda to congratulate one another.
“As you know,” Governor Rick Scott explained, “I called a special session because I believed that we should have more money for K-12 education, we should make sure we can market our state well, and we can make sure we continue to grow jobs.”
And lawmakers were willing to oblige. Visit Florida’s funding will jump from $25 to $76 million. Lawmakers approved an $85 million fund for infrastructure and job training. Per pupil spending will climb by $100. And in a bargain struck Friday, he even got money for the Herbert Hoover dike.
But to make it out of Tallahassee lawmakers had to notch wins of their own. On Thursday evening Senate President Joe Negron was livid over the governor and the House preparing to pay for the education increase with Senate projects vetoed from the budget.
He says imagine if the shoe were on the other foot. The House would be incensed.
“Disproportionately veto the House priorities: Best and Brightest, charter schools,” Negron described. “And then the governor’s going to use that money instead of using the pot of money from the Senate, in this hypothetical—we’ll just go and use all of the House money.”
“I can only imagine what the leadership of the House would say to a proposal like that,” Negron continued. “I can assure you, they wouldn’t stand for it. They wouldn’t support it.”
Many of the vetoes Negron was worried about had to do with higher education, and Friday, he got a $60 million olive branch—covering nearly 20 projects at state colleges and universities.
Meanwhile the House was able to attach the limitations it wanted on the governor’s economic development package.
“A model for economic development moving forward,” Corcoran said, “that I think in no time the rest of the forty nine states will follow—a vision of the governor’s, and it’s an honor to be a part of that governor.”
And the House got its demands cheap.
Funding for the governor’s so-called Florida Job Growth Grant Fund represents about a tenth of a percent of the overall budget, and the appropriation is non-recurring. If the program succeeds, the House can take credit, but if it turns into the slush fund critics like Rep. Richardson believe it will be, lawmakers can simply turn off the tap next year.