Florida House, Senate 'optimistic' budget conferences could start this weekend
Florida House and Senate leaders are either more in sync than Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee let on just four hours ago, or he and House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran had some very productive discussions in a short period of time.
In a joint email to the state's 160 lawmakers at around 9:15 this evening, Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said they are "pleased with the progress" made by Lee, R-Brandon, and Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes.
"(We) are optimistic we will be ready to begin the budget conference this weekend," Gardiner and Crisafulli wrote. "We will update you as early as possible tomorrow, so you can make the appropriate travel arrangements."
At the close of yesterday's session, Gardiner had advised Senate appropriations members to stick around, in case budget meetings started this weekend.
But after a seven-hour Senate Appropriations Committee meeting today, Lee indicated not much progress had been made in the past 24 hours. He told reporters earlier this evening that he "hadn't really talked" to Corcoran all day, but that they'd planned to speak this evening.
House and Senate leaders have yet to release budget allocations, the next big step in the process. They need to shore up a budget no later than March 8, in order for lawmakers to vote on one before session is scheduled to end March 11.