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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Senate already critical of Corcoran plan to 'shut down' budget



The ink wasn't dry on incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran's rewrite of House rules and the Senate's first reaction was not positive -- the first of what will be many signs that his new way of doing things will cause a major stir in the Capitol.

Corcoran's 117-page rewrite of House rules is a manifesto for many changes to the status quo in Tallahassee. What has drawn much early media attention is his insistence on less interaction between lawmakers and lobbyists, such as a texting and email ban during floor sessions and committee meetings.

But a far-reaching change that could set the tone for the entire 2017 session is Corcoran's creation of an entirely new system for getting local projects funded in future state budgets. The new rules require that every project paid for with one-time or nonrecurring money also be filed as stand-alone bills by March 7, the first day of the session, meaning each one must be debated on its merits and they can no longer be tucked inside a mammoth spending plan in the final days.

Corcoran's counterpart for the next two years, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is, like Corcoran, a budget wonk. Negron has been chairman of the appropriations committees in both chambers and is a sealous protector of the Senate's spending prerogatives that now must respect the House's rigid timetable. Negron flatly disputed Corcoran's contention that the House plan increases budget transparency.

"I respect the right of the House to produce its own rules on the budget, and I certainly think that there's a case to be made that there should be an opportunity for the public to be heard," Negron told the Times/Herald. "But the budget process should not be shut down before the session starts. That results in less public input, not more public input."

Another new layer of spending scrutiny will soon emerge from the House.

Corcoran and his staff are putting the final touches on a survey questionnaire that every group seeking money for projects will have to complete. The survey, with about 40 questions, requires information on who's registered to lobby for the project, what services will be provided to citizens and whether financially disadvantaged Floridians will benefit.

[Last modified: Monday, November 14, 2016 11:24am]


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