Joe Henderson: This Legislative Session has the chance to be one of the most significant in Florida's history - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: This Legislative Session has the chance to be one of the most significant in Florida’s history

We already know the 2017 Legislative Session that opens Tuesday in Tallahassee is likely to be contentious, but aren’t they all? Big-league politics is a contact sport.

No one will deny the battle between Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran over spending priorities makes for good political theater (not to mention headlines). When the two most powerful Republicans in the state engage in public spats the way these two have, it does tend to attract attention.

There is a bigger story brewing, though. If lawmakers pass most of what has been proposed, it could become one of the most significant sessions in Florida’s history.

Corcoran’s ambitious package of legislative and lobbying reforms could fundamentally change the way business is done in Tallahassee. Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron worked out a budget compromise Friday that makes a good start on what Corcoran has vowed to accomplish.

Corcoran scored big with a rule requiring all projects added to the budget must be paid for with one-time money. That ends the practice of annually recurring expenses on the base budget, which Corcoran complained hamstrung future legislatures.

This likely will end that time-honored House and Senate tradition of flooding the budget with last-minute additions that can add hundreds of millions in costs. Now, no projects can be added to the final budget that weren’t included in the original plans by the House and Senate – although we can be certain some legislators will try to find ways around that.

Negron released a statement after the compromise praising Corcoran lauding the enhanced “accountability and transparency” in budgeting.

That new policy alone would make this an especially significant session, but there are additional measures that could fundamentally change everyday life for Floridians more directly.

There are bills that, if passed, would greatly expand the number of public places where Floridians with concealed weapons permits could legally carry their guns.

The ongoing fight in Washington over the Affordable Care Act could have big implications here, especially if Congress turns Medicaid into a block grant program where states would receive a set amount of money.

Lawmakers are going after the state Supreme Court after justices issued rulings they didn’t like. That could lead to the imposition of term limits and blur the line of separation between legislators and the judiciary. Corcoran’s fingerprints are all over this one, having vowed to “reign in” the court for “legislating from the bench.”

There is a push to issue civil citations to juveniles who commit minor offenses, allowing them to avoid a police record. Others are getting on the bus for mandatory free-form play time in elementary schools (we used to call that recess back in the day). Another bill would take aim at cities like Tampa, where Democratic Mayor Bob Buckhorn hasn’t embraced the aggressive tactics to corral undocumented immigrants.

Yeah, the Scott-Corcoran public feud over the governor’s love for business incentives and promotional spending for tourism has been entertaining. It also has deflected attention away from other items on the agenda that arguably are more important.

That changes Tuesday when the session officially opens and lawmakers get busy on a 60-day reshape on Florida. This is the main event.

Game on.

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. I covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. I also was the City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. I served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. I have numerous local, state and national writing awards. I have been married to my wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and have two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.
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