State

TEN BIG ISSUES IN THE 2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

By Jim Saunders NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE --- The Florida House and Senate ended the 2018 legislative session last Sunday by passing a budget and a tax-cut package for the upcoming year. The session became dominated in February by the aftermath of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. That led to a massive debate about how to improve school safety and whether to revamp the state’s gun laws.

Here is a recap of 10 big issues from the 2018 session:

SESSION END LEAVES PILE OF DEAD BILLS

By Jim Turner NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE --- Banning “sanctuary” cities, revamping gambling laws, approving new sexual-harassment rules and even creating a license plate to commemorate the University of Central Florida’s undefeated football season were among numerous issues that died when the 2018 legislative session ended Sunday.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, was quick to praise the new budget for including $100.8 million to revive the Florida Forever land-preservation program after a decade of neglect.

Florida House debates amendments to school safety bill

BRENDAN FARRINGTON, TERRY SPENCER and GARY FINEOUT, Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A proposal to arm some teachers and school employees proved particularly contentious Tuesday as Florida representatives debated amendments to a school safety bill.

House members spent nearly three hours asking questions about the legislation, which would put some restrictions on rifle sales, provide new mental health programs from schools and improve communication between school districts, law enforcement and state agencies.

LAWMAKERS WILL NEED OVERTIME ON BUDGET

By Christine Sexton, Lloyd Dunkelberger NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE --- Florida lawmakers will need to go into overtime because of an impasse about hospital spending in final negotiations over a new state budget.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, told House members Tuesday night that lawmakers will have to extend the session, scheduled to end Friday, or hold a special session.

“Make preparations because that’s kind of where we are headed," Corcoran said after a day of behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Senate.

LAWMAKERS PASS CONTROVERSIAL EDUCATION CHANGES

By Lloyd Dunkelberger FLORIDA NEWS SERVICE

March 5, 2018 TALLAHASSEE --- More sweeping changes are headed toward Florida’s public schools, including the use of sales-tax credits to help students attend private schools.

In a 20-17 vote Monday, the Senate backed a bill (HB 7055) that has been a top priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, and includes dozens of changes for the state’s 67 school districts. Hours later, the House gave final approval in a 74-39 vote, sending the measure to Gov. Rick Scott.

SENATE NARROWLY PASSES SCHOOL SAFETY PLAN

by Dara Kam NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

March 5, 2018 TALLAHASSEE --- After two weeks of emotionally charged testimony and raw debate, the Florida Senate on Monday narrowly approved a sweeping measure addressing mental health, school safety and guns in response to last month’s mass shooting at a Broward County high school that left 17 people --- including 14 students --- dead.

The 20-18 vote came after nearly non-stop advocacy from students, teachers and parents, including survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who demanded that lawmakers take action before the legislative session ends Friday.

SENATE BACKS MAKING IT HARDER TO RAISE TAXES

by Jim Turner NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

March 5, 2018 TALLAHASSEE --- A proposal that will ask voters to make it tougher for future state lawmakers to raise taxes narrowly cleared the Senate on Monday, with three Democrats joining Republicans in putting the measure on the November ballot.

The Senate voted 25-13 to approve the proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 7001), which has been a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott.

If approved in November, the measure would require two-thirds votes in the House and Senate to raise taxes or fees in the future, up from the usual majority votes.

SENATE TO HOLD SATURDAY SESSION ON SCHOOL SAFETY

by Dara Kam NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

March 2, 2018 TALLAHASSEE --- Signaling problems with a sweeping proposal aimed at making schools safer, Florida Senate leaders Friday ordered a rare Saturday floor session to begin debate on a measure that has become mired in controversy over allowing armed teachers.

The Saturday session is planned as House and Senate leaders race against the clock to reach consensus on a bill before the annual legislative session ends on March 9.