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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Election-year session helped silence legislative bickering



In the last 60 days, immigrants from Miami, Orlando and Tampa traveled overnight by bus with their children and elders and made passionate and personal appeals to lawmakers to reject a bill that would punish police for failing to arrest their family members. College professors broke their silence and decried a bill to allow guns on campus. And environmentalists joined with city officials across the state and demanded lawmakers not strip them of the ability to keep oil and gas fracking out of their communities.

When legislators adjourned their annual session Friday with back-slapping, hand-shaking unity, it provided a sharp contrast to the bitter animosity and personal feuding that dissolved last year’s session and, while they gave the most controversial and conservative bills a hearing, most of them died.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate did pass a record $82.3 billion budget and loaded it with local projects, a populist property tax break, and funding for soft subjects — like social service waiting lists, insurance coverage for people with Down Syndrome, water projects and expanded children’s health care.

They also delivered a sharp rebuke to Republican Gov. Rick Scott and his top priorities — $1 billion in tax cuts and $250 million in economic development incentive grants.

So what changed? It’s a presidential election year, all legislators are on the ballot and the governor is not. The most powerful influence on the Florida Legislature this year may have been people who rarely step foot in the Capitol, track a vote, or contribute to a political committee: Florida’s 12 million voters. More here by @MaryEllenKlas


[Last modified: Saturday, March 12, 2016 2:52pm]


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