Budget conference: Session headed to overtime as negotiators blow past deadline
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 3/4/22-House Appropriations Chair Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, left, and Senate Appropriations Chair Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, during the first appropriations conference meeting, Friday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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Thanks to a delayed budget, there's "no time to (Sine) Die."

Like the latest James Bond film, Florida lawmakers have “no time to (Sine) Die.” At least not quite yet.

Despite assurances the budget would be ready for the final day of the 2022 Session, legislators will likely return Monday — indicating the Sine Die hankie will drop a little later than hoped.

Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls sent a memo to lawmakers Tuesday evening indicating budget negotiators will miss the midnight deadline to prepare a budget for Sine Die on Friday.

Led by budget chiefs Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Jay Trumbull, the Budget Conference plans to have the budget ready by Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.

Simpson and Sprowls’ memo had initially implied a Saturday vote. But on the floor Wednesday morning, Simpson said the budget will be prepared “certainly first thing in the morning,” lining up a Monday vote.

“We may or may not be here Friday, but we will certainly come back Monday, I believe, to vote on the budget,” Simpson said. “We will debate it, we will have everything ready to go and probably come about noon Monday to vote on the budget, and that would be the final line of business.”

Remaining issues to hammer out: Education, agriculture, and $3.5 billion in federal COVID-19 relief dollars.

“Chairs Trumbull and Stargel have made tremendous progress and continue to work toward reconciling minor outstanding budget issues at a steady pace. Meanwhile, staff members are working to input and proof the Conference Report,” the Chamber leaders wrote.

“Notwithstanding the tremendous efforts of all involved, we are coming up against the 72-hour mark. Rather than hold important public conference meetings unreasonably late into the night, we have asked Chairs Trumbull and Stargel to notice a meeting for tomorrow.”

Friday is the 60th (and traditionally final) day of the Legislative Session. Despite what time the state’s spending plan is ready, lawmakers will face a constitutionally mandated 72-hour “cooling off” period before voting on the budget (HB 5001) and related bills.

There’s only one piece of legislation the Legislature is mandated to pass in any given Regular Session — a balanced budget.

Stargel and Trumbull began Tuesday optimistic that budget negotiations would finish on time.

“We are obviously trying,” Trumbull told reporters that morning. “Our staff is working like crazy to get things done, so I do believe that could be a later day on Friday night, but our goal was to be done on time.”

But by Tuesday afternoon, Trumbull was moderating expectations.

“Our goal, the same as it was this morning, is to do everything we possibly can to get done today,” Trumbull said. “Our staff’s working crazy amounts of hours. I’m super, super appreciative of all of that. So hopefully we can get there, and we’ll just kind of see how it progresses.”

Further complicating matters, wildfires in the Panhandle and Trumbull’s home base of Bay County impact budget talks. Instead of hunkering down in the capital city over the weekend, as budget beancounters expect to hold the majority of their meetings, the Panama City Republican was home Saturday morning, meeting with local and state officials, as well as Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Trumbull was back in Tallahassee at roughly 2 p.m. that afternoon.

Still, instead of a flurry of meetings, the Budget Conference held one meeting Saturday evening and another late Sunday evening after extending the hours they were allowed to meet.

Lawmakers did not conference Monday. Instead, they scheduled a meeting for early Tuesday — holding one more Tuesday meeting before Simpson and Sprowls called for the extension.

The two leaders expect to specify a specific time to extend Session once lawmakers produce a budget — starting the 72-hour countdown.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.



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