2016 Session - Committee Weeks
Lawmakers returned to Tallahassee after a summer dotted with special sessions for their first committee week ahead of the 2016 Legislative Session. During the first abbreviated committee week, lawmakers cancelled nearly half of their scheduled meetings. Legislative business is expected to jumpstart during the next scheduled committee week, beginning October 5th. The regular 2016 Session will kick off on Tuesday, January 12th.
The Senate Appropriations committee heard a presentation from the state’s economist about the Long-Range Financial Outlook and while there is a projected $600 million surplus, spending more than $74 million of those funds will result in a budget shortfall in future years.
Appropriations subcommittees reviewed Legislative Budget Requests from their corresponding agencies. The Legislative Budget Request (LBR) is the first step in the budget formulation process. The Governor will use these budget requests to create a budget that he will present to the legislature before session, and the legislature will consider both the LBRs and the Governor’s proposed budget during the appropriations process.
Criminal justice meetings highlighted the need for mental health programs for prisoners and reentry programs. At a Senate hearing, lawmakers discussed opportunities to reform Florida’s drivers’ license suspension laws. During the House Judiciary meeting, Secretary Julie Jones voiced support for a program similar to a Florida TaxWatch proposed conditional supervised elderly release program. Last year, the program was included in legislation filed by Rep. Katie Edwards.
Earlier this month, results from an independent study confirmed that last year’s new Florida Standards Assessment was valid for measuring class achievement and teacher effectiveness, but the report cautioned the test may not adequately measure individual student performance. Senators raised questions to Department of Education Secretary Pam Stewart about the report’s independence.
Bill Johnson, CEO of Enterprise Florida, presented a budget request for a record-breaking $80 million to enhance economic development activities in the state. Senate lawmakers stressed the importance of specific project performance metrics and clear return on investment information from EFI.