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Senate President is open to talks on House plan to punish school districts that kept mask mandates

Wilton Simpson stands behind a lectern. He's wearing a dark blue jacket, blue tie and white shirt. The Florida flag is behind him.
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
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FR121174 AP
Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson addresses a legislative session, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

The Florida Senate passed it’s budget proposal Thursday. The spending plan includes an increase in per student funding for K-12 schools.

The House budget plan also includes more money for schools, but a provision in that chamber’s bill gives a smaller increase to a dozen school districts, including Leon County, that kept student mask mandates in place even after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning the mandates.

Senate President Wilton Simpson said as lawmakers prepare to meet in conference to hammer out the differences in their budget proposals, he’s approaching that issue with an open mind.

“You have school boards that defied an executive order, so what should the penalty for that be? It’s no different than in [Senate bill] 2508, if a South Florida Water Management District defies state law, what should we do about that? And so I think that’s a discussion we’re still going to have. We certainly will discuss that in conference," Simpson said.

Simpson said he expects part of the debate to center on whether there’s a difference between running afoul of an executive order compared to a law. After some districts defied Desantis’ order, lawmakers met in a special session to codify the order in state law.