Capitol Complex Events – Week of April 26-30, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. ENLACE Florida – First generation college students to meet with legislators and to bring awareness to the program.Braulio Colon 813/974-3897 Plaza Level Rotunda
Tuesday, April 27, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – Get Outdoors Florida! To encourage families in outdoor experiences that will help them achieve healthier lifestyles and gain appreciation of Florida’s natural resources, booths, displays and interactive games for youth. Karen Ventimiglia 850/487-3796
Tuesday, April 27, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Creating The Next Generation That Cares – To promote outdoor safety and opportunities for young people and families to participate in outdoor activities and share experiences that strengthen connections with and support for fish and wildlife conservation. Karen Ventimiglia 850/487-3796 Courtyard
Wednesday, April 28, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The ALS Association Florida Chapter – Exhibit featuring mannequins in mass numbers representing lives lost to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Kamden Kuhn 813/637-9000 Historic Front Steps/area north of Historic Capitol/Courtyard
Wednesday, April 28, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Volunteer Florida Foundation – Fitness Day at the Capitol, displays, exhibitors, press conference.Kay Kammel 850/410-0696 Plaza Level Rotunda
Thursday, April 29, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Papillon Florida – Information and displays regarding prison reform. Kathleen Murff Whiting 352/375-1201 Courtyard/Plaza Level Rotunda
Friday, April 30, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Florida Law Related Education Association – Displays on public policy by middle and high school students. Erin Crowe 850/386-8223 Plaza Level Rotunda
Source: Budd Bell Clearinghouse on Human Services
BUDGET CONFERENCE PUT ON HOLD
The Senate and House shut down formal budget negotiations on Saturday, a sign that Florida legislators may now be in jeopardy of ending the 2010 session on time.
Lawmakers were supposed to start official budget conferences in the morning, but canceled the meeting just minutes ahead of time.
The snag is that House and Senate leaders have failed to reach an agreement on “allocations” or how much money should be set aside in specific areas of the budget such as health care, education and road-building. Another dilemma is how much money should be off the table and instead be left in reserves.
“It’s complicated and we haven’t quite got there,” said Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales and Senate budget chief on Saturday. “You got to get where there is a framework.”
One of the biggest issues had been how to handle nearly $1 billion the Senate has banked on receiving from the federal government. Right now there are no indications if the U.S. Congress will vote to extend a higher matching rate for Medicaid that is now set to expire at the end of 2010.
Alexander said that he still believes the federal government will approve the higher matching rate, but acknowledged there had been discussions with the House about whether or not to have “provisional spending” items placed in the budget if the higher matching rate is approved.
Another factor that has bogged down initial negotiations is that the use of federal stimulus dollars requires the state to maintain certain spending levels in education. Plus, the passage of health care reform also requires Florida to keep intact some of its optional Medicaid programs.
Lastly, the Senate has been opposed to the House decision to utilize more than $400 million from the state’s road-building fund to help balance the budget. The Senate has been willing to consider some some amount of transfer from the fund, but nothing has been finalized.
“This is one of the most complicated budgets we’ve had in my 12 year tenure,” said Alexander.
It is not clear when legislators will begin the formal conference. Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, told senators and their staff to have a “pleasant weekend.”
But time is running out for lawmakers to pass a budget before the April 30 end of session.
Florida’s Constitution requires that the final version of the budget must be placed on the desk of every lawmaker 72 hours before it can be approved. That would mean the budget would have to done by April 27.
But under new transparency requirements that House and Senate leaders put in this year legislators have pledged to unveil everything that is in the budget at public meetings before taking a final vote.
This new process was put in place in the wake of the scandal involving former House Speaker Ray Sansom. Sansom, who is awaiting trial on criminal charges, is accused of using his position as budget chief to steer money into the budget for a Panhandle developer and political donor. Sansom has denied all wrongdoing but a grand jury last year blasted the way the Legislature draws up its annual spending plan.
House Democrats, however, still aren’t happy with the process, saying that discussions of allocations should also happen in public view.
“Where was the secret meeting where they decided we’re not having the open meeting?” asked Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West.
Alexander, however, has defended the way the budget process is being handled.
“We would like never be able to bring a budget together,” said Alexander. “I just think it would be impossible. This isn’t a county commission, this is a complicated budget.”