Top budget negotiators for the House and Senate met Saturday afternoon, with the Senate meeting the House position on several environmental projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Senate is agreeing to $100 million for land protection easements for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, coming down from its earlier position of $400 million. It also agreed to $100 million for Indian River Lagoon restoration, up from its prior preference for $50 million, and came to the House preference for $300 million for resiliency projects to mitigate the effects of sea level rise, up from its previous stance of $179 million.
The Senate, though, is sticking to its position of $100 million for Florida Forever, a different land conservation program housed under the Department of Environmental Protection. The House wants $200 million for the program.
In the criminal justice section of the budget, the House is sticking to its preference for $9 million for the 2nd DCA courthouse in its latest offer. The Senate has maintained a position of zero funding for it. The House did agree to $6 million for the new 6th DCA courthouse construction within the Department of Management Services budget. It also came to the Senate position of $5.5 million for expanding the Harriet T. Moore Justice Center in Viera.
The chambers are also still at odds over where to put $40 million in local cybersecurity grants. The House prefers to put it in DMS, an agency under the sole purview of Gov. Ron DeSantis, while the Senate wants it in the Department of Financial Services, an agency under the direction of DeSantis and his Cabinet.
Lawmakers must reach an agreement on a final spending plan by Tuesday to meet the 72-hour “cooling off” period required by the state constitution before they can vote on the budget to avoid pushing the Regular Session past its scheduled May 5 end date.