TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Legislature is scheduled to convene on March 2 for its 2021 session, with lots of items to tackle amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to give his annual State of the State address before state House and Senate lawmakers begin work, the News Service of Florida reports. One of the larger items includes finalizing the upcoming fiscal year budget – and figuring out what cuts might be necessary.
The News Service of Florida highlights several big items to watch, including these five:
Budget: DeSantis in January unveiled his 2021-22 budget -- a recommended $96.6 billion, which is an increase of $4.3 billion over the current fiscal year. But coronavirus-related impacts are expected to bring on widespread cuts to areas like education, the environment, health care and more.
Education: Lawmakers will consider expanding the school voucher program, much to the ire of public school teachers who say it would be a “massive expansion” of unregulated schools in the state, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Environment: DeSantis is likely to continue a push for $625 million for Everglades restoration efforts and ways to tackle blue-green algae blooms. Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls last week introduced legislation that calls for the state to invest $100 million per year into mitigation of sea-level rise and flooding.
Health care: Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals and nursing homes could be one area that lawmakers consider in working the state budget. The News Service of Florida says they could reduce state dollars to Medicaid without cutting rates through a new hospital arrangement.
Protests: The governor last fall announced legislation that would enact harsher penalties on those involved in violent protests. If passed, it would be illegal for protesters to block traffic and removes liability from drivers who injure or kill anyone if they're fleeing from a crowd. The ACLU also spoke out against the bill, calling it an attack on Americans' First Amendment rights.
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