Today's news -- May 3, 2017





Legislature fails to get budget, must extend session *

The Republican-dominated Legislature will need extra time to finish work on the state budget for the second time in three years, as lawmakers ended Tuesday with no agreement on an $83 billion spending plan for the year beginning July 1. Negotiations between House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate President Joe Negron and their budget chiefs failed to work out a final deal that would allow the annual legislative session to end Friday, as scheduled. Because of a constitutionally required 72-hour “cooling off” period, an agreement on the budget needed to be finished Tuesday for the session to wrap up on time. Instead, Negron stood on the Senate floor around 6:30 p.m. and conceded what had become increasingly clear: The House and Senate would miss the deadline. “We will definitely not complete the budget work prior to the end of Friday,” said Negron, R-Stuart. “So we’ll continue to work diligently. … I think given the current schedule, it’s improbable we’d be able to finish before Friday.” Instead, legislative leaders will now try to work out a deal by Friday at the latest, which would allow the budget to be voted on as soon as Monday. It seemed unlikely that lawmakers would meet over the weekend, when Florida State University is scheduled to hold its graduation ceremonies and fill up hotel rooms across Tallahassee. Negron’s concession came less than a week after lawmakers had confidently predicted that they would be able to hammer out differences in their competing versions of the budget despite a tight timeline for negotiations. Indeed, Corcoran had dismissed reporters’ questions on the process Thursday by implying that reporters were upset that they were wrong about the potential need for a special or extended session to finish the budget. “I know all of you wrote that it was going to be a train-wreck, we’re going to go into 18 special sessions, we’re never going to get done, but now that we have come together, we’ve worked out our differences and now we’re having a conference, I think it’s going to be a spectacular session,” Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, said at the time. “There’ll be no crashes, despite your reporting, and I think it’s going to be a good day for the state of Florida.” Corcoran told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he believed there was a 90 percent chance that the budget would be done on time. But the obstacles to a final deal apparently proved to be too much. Negron blamed “the number of issues that we were confronted with,” from his own plans for higher education funding and a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to Corcoran’s push for extra money for charter schools and teacher bonuses to what little lawmakers did to accommodate Gov. Rick Scott’s agenda. Corcoran and Negron stepped in to take over the negotiations Sunday afternoon following talks between their respective budget chairs. But there have been no public meetings since then. The final stumbling block appeared to be over how to distribute $651 million in Medicaid cuts to hospitals. The House and the Senate have different formulas for how to hand out those reductions.

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens said Democrats are ready to stay in Tallahassee. "All my members have been prepared for summer, for special session. That's not a threat to us," Braynon said. "If it's a terrible bill, terrible budget, we're willing to stay."


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