The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — Buckle up. The 2019 legislative session is about ready to pick up speed.
When lawmakers come back from the holiday weekend, they will be poised to start budget negotiations and to try to resolve a laundry list of major — and controversial — issues. That means a sprint toward the scheduled May 3 end of the 60-day session.
The top priority of the final two weeks will be to negotiate a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The House early this month passed an $89.9 billion spending plan, while the Senate’s budget landed on the desk at $90.3 billion. While the overall budget totals are relatively close, that masks the myriad details negotiators will have to work out.
As of early Friday evening, House and Senate leaders had not announced when the formal conference process will start to negotiate the budget. But aside from the budget, they had lined up numerous high-profile bills to consider during the coming week.
On Tuesday, for example, a Senate floor session could include debate about a school-safety bill that would allow armed teachers; a bill that would strengthen the state’s texting-while-driving ban; and a bill that would lead to the expansion or construction of three toll roads.
Across the Capitol’s fourth floor, the House on Tuesday is expected to take up an immigration bill aimed at preventing so-called sanctuary cities and a controversial bill that would carry out a constitutional amendment restoring felons’ voting rights.
After an 11-hour floor session Wednesday, House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, hinted that more long days are coming as budget negotiations and the other issues loom.
“I would say we’re going to be on the floor for a while. We’re going to be in the Capitol for a while,” he said.