State lawmakers are beginning their sixth week of work during the 2014 Florida Legislative Session. During the session, WUWF is checking in with Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville).
Sen. Gaetz says one of the highlights of week five was the Senate’s passage of House Bill 5001, the General Appropriations Act, as amended with Senate Bill 2500, which totals $74.9 billion. “It’ll be a good budget and we passed it out 38-2, with an overwhelming support from the Democratic and Republican Caucuses. Now we’re going into consultations and negotiations with our friends in the House,” says Gaetz.
The House budget proposal is $75.3 billion.
One of the areas where the House and Senate spending plans differ is in education, with the House proposing $20.7 billion, while the Senate plan totals $18.7 billion.
“The budget legislation we (Senate) passed provides the largest investment in K-12 education in the state’s history,” says Gaetz, adding that the Senate budget includes more than $650 million in additional K-12 spending. Also, the Senate budget includes $200 million in performance-based funding for Florida’s State University System.
Senate President Gaetz says part of the budget conference process is determining where a particular budget allocation will come from. As an example, Gaetz notes a proposal to provide a personal education account for families of children who have severe developmental disabilities. In the Senate plan, it’s included in the budget of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, which is in the health care budget. In the House, it’s included in the education budget.
In the case of Child Welfare Reform, the House and Senate are together on policy and the silo for appropriations, but the two chambers have different proposals in the amount to be budgeted. Sen. Gaetz says one of the sticking points is in the experience requirement for Department of Children and Families (DCF) investigators. Requiring more extensive credentials for investigators will require higher pay and increase the overall budget for DCF.
Looking ahead, Gaetz says he expects some 50 bills to be taken up this week, the sixth week of the regular session. One of the bills he’s received feedback on is SB 864, sponsored by Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) and by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) in the House. The bill would allow local school districts to make decisions about instructional materials and text books. The measure establishes a way for citizens and subject-area experts in the community to be part of a text book review process.
You can follow legislative in the House of Representatives at www.myfloridahouse.gov.