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Florida Senators and Representatives gather in the House for the joint session on opening day of the 2017 Florida Legislative Session at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida March 6, 2017.

Influence

House members look for $2B in projects

House members have hit the $2 billion threshold in requests for projects they’d like included in the budget that lawmakers will piece together during the 2018 Legislative Session, which begins Jan. 9.

As of Wednesday morning, 1,220 different projects had been proposed, ranging from $2,700 sought by Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., a Hialeah Republican, to upgrade sleeping quarters at the local emergency operations center (HB 2741) to $69.5 million sought by Palatka Republican Rep. Bobby Payne for drinking-water infrastructure improvements in Palatka (HB 3259).

Other big-ticket items include $30 million for infrastructure improvements to utilities at the University of Florida (HB 2733); $34.4 million for Lake Nona Campus Building 2 at Valencia College (HB 2437); and $50 million for the Data Science and Information Technology program at the University of Florida (HB 4063).

Republicans account for 829 of the projects, which if all were put in the annual spending plan would require about $1.5 billion. Democrats have offered 390 projects with a combined value of $491.6 million.

House members are required to individually file spending proposals as bills, which is not required in the Senate. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, has said priority for funding will go to proposals related to hurricane relief.

The House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness has received 160 recommendations to deal with storm-related issues, including extending north the Suncoast Parkway toll road as a new evacuation route, leasing a cruise ship to carry evacuees from the Lower Keys and requiring utility lines to be placed underground.

The member budget proposals are separate from most of the recommendations before the select committee.

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