Lawmakers look set to extend the Session with Gov. Ron DeSantis and House and Senate leaders chiming in Tuesday on the looming decision.
As lawmakers began flagging the possibility, DeSantis encouraged them to “do a good job” and not rush talks in the final two weeks of Session to meet an “artificial timeline.”
“I think we have a chance to exceed what we did last Session, and I think — the people in Florida — they want to see us doing big things on education, environment, economic development, all these great things, and if you do that three days after the end of Session and have to extend a few days, that’s not going to be the end of the world,” the Governor said.”
Speaker José Oliva left no room for interpretation in his comments before the House floor session, calling an extension inevitable.
“The extent of that extension is yet unknown, but we are confident we’re working closely with our partners in the Senate to bridge the gaps between us that can get us into allocations and then into conference.”
Sen. Rob Bradley first broke the news, telling Senators there is a “very good chance” lawmakers will need to extend the deadline. The Fleming Island Republican said progress is underway in negotiations with lawmakers across the rotunda.
“That all being said, there is a good possibility that we will need to extend Session.”
Senate President Bill Galvano told reporters an extension could resemble last year, when lawmakers tacked on a day to complete the then-record $90.98 billion spending plan for the current fiscal year ending June 30.
“These things are complicated,” Galvano said. “If you look at the (House and Senate) budgets as they were rolled out, we’re over $1 billion apart.”
The House has offered a $91.4 billion fiscal package, while the Senate proposal came in at $92.8 billion.
“I think over the next 48 hours we’ll figure out where we are,” Galvano added.
He says the biggest sticking points were the big allocations, like education, the environment and Visit Florida.
“We’ve both been working very hard to find that sweet spot on teacher compensation and moving the education silo forward,” he said. “The environmental side of it, there’s a lot of alignment. But we have some big differences too. One of that comes to mind is Visit Florida”
Friday, March 13 marks the 60th and final day of the 2020 Session. But to adjourn on time, the House and Senate would have to finish the budget by March 10 because of a legally required 72-hour “cooling of” period.
“We’re confident that we can get it done, but as of this moment, we’re extending, at the very least, a day or two,” Oliva said.
Sen. Tom Lee says typically the hold up is policy disagreements.
“The president and the speaker and maybe even the governor you know have some disagreements over what you know the final leadership packages are going to look like on policy,” he said. “And sometimes the allocation process gets held up pending that resolution.”
He says the two chambers are not that far apart on the budget, nothing seemingly significant enough to bog things down, so it’s got to be a piece of policy.
“You just learn to speak legislature after a while,” Lee said.
Bradley, the Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, asked Senators to remain mindful of the possibility when planning for the coming weeks.
Sarah Mueller and The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.