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On Session's Last Day Some Lawmakers Will Vote On Issues For The First Time

House Speaker Richard Corcoran (left) and Senate President Joe Negron.
Nick Evans

The Florida Legislature has lined up a series of spending measures to complete the state budget.  Leaders are cramming some of the largest and thorniest issues into measures that some lawmakers will be debating for the first time.

Lawmakers have 16 bills on the docket when they return to work today.  Their job, as always, is to pass the budget.  But the rest of those measures—known as conference reports—deal with appropriations that House and Senate leaders care about very deeply.  Whether it’s state worker raises, retirement changes or tax cuts—there are a number of measures leadership really wants to see pass before this year’s session comes to an end.   But some of the ideas in those conference reports have only passed one chamber which means they’ll be getting their first hearing on the House or Senate floor.  Friday lawmakers lumped numerous outstanding education measures into one bill that passed the Senate. But Senate President Joe Negron says there are no surprises in the measure.

“When you look at what’s contained in the Higher Ed proposal and the K-12 proposal,” Negron says, “you don’t read down the list and go, ‘oh, I never heard of the recess bill.’  We’ve all heard about the recess bill.”

There’s one important wrinkle when it comes to conference reports: they can’t be amended. 

That means for many of Florida’s 160 state lawmakers their only input on a batch of priority legislation will be saying yes or no.  House Speaker Richard Corcoran brushes that off—claiming lawmakers from both chambers and both parties had a hand in drafting.

“You guys say it’s a House bill or a Senate bill.  As the president pointed out, I don’t know, at this point I’d say half of the K-12 bill is language that was from Senator [Anitere] Flores, Senator [David] Simmons,” Corcoran says.

“A ton of the language regarding the wrap around services was working with our colleagues across the aisle,” he goes on, “Representative [Larry] Lee, Representative Shevrin Jones.”

But even if a handful of lawmakers participated, House and Senate leaders got to decide what suggestions made it into the final bill.  And they did so behind closed doors.