Senate and House leaders have eyes on stimulus funds, overriding Crist's vetoes

TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos met Thursday morning and announced they're ready to get to work.

Their first order of business: overriding nine bills vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist.

The Florida Legislature has overridden governors' vetoes on only two occasions in the last 24 years, with the latest coming in 1997.

Cannon and Haridopolos, fortified by a new veto-proof majority, plan to seek the legislative override during their scheduled organizational session Nov. 16.

The list also includes a plan to allow the state to use $31 million in federal stimulus funds to provide energy rebates for home­owners who installed qualified air conditioners or solar energy improvements, and postponing the effective date of another law that will require increased septic tank inspections to protect groundwater.

Their one-day session will focus only on noncontroversial bills that can be handled in a single day and have overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate, they said.

Not included will be Crist's vetoes of the controversial teacher tenure bill (Senate Bill 6), the bill requiring that all women seeking abortions submit to ultrasound, and the bill enabling political parties to create political funds controlled by the legislative leadership.

The overrides are possible because GOP legislators won five additional seats in the House, bringing the Republican majority to 81-39, and two new seats in the Senate, for a majority of 28-12.

Some of the spending proposals, though, could run afoul of Gov.-elect Rick Scott, who doesn't take office until Jan. 4. With the overrides, lawmakers are looking to spend more and also draw down additional federal stimulus money, approaches condemned by Scott during the campaign.

There's even a $3 million fee increase included in one of the bills poised for a veto override.

"If there's a message in the election, it's that citizens want us to work together to solve problems and push good policy," and that's what the overrides would do, Cannon said. "They're tired of political gamesmanship. I know I am," he said.

One override would restore $9.7 million to Shands at the University of Florida hospital. The item vetoed by Crist was to serve an additional 18,000 uninsured Floridians and also would have made the state eligible for another $12 million in Medicaid federal matching money.

The veto was widely seen as a Crist slap at outgoing House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, whose district included the hospital and who sparred openly with the governor during the session.

Here are some of the vetoed bills under consideration, and the effect an override would have:

• HB 981A — Allow property owners whose land is classified with an agricultural exemption to continue the exemption after the property is sold.

• HB 1385 — Allow more flexibility in implementing the petroleum cleanup law.

• HB 545 — Repeal the requirement that homes in hurricane-prone areas be given a "wind resistance" rating when they're sold.

• HB 1516 — Create a database of state-owned lands at the Department of Environmental Protection.

• HB 1565 — Tighten legislative control over agency rulemaking.

• HB 5603 — Alter worker compensation laws by changing return-to-work policies in state law.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this article.

Senate and House leaders have eyes on stimulus funds, overriding Crist's vetoes 11/04/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 8:29am]

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