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Budget decisions begin today in Tallahassee

TALLAHASSEE — As lawmakers take out the scalpels and start making decisions this week on which programs will be sliced out of the state budget to close a $3.2 billion gap, the House and Senate will showcase issues designed to show they're doing some positive things, too.

Budget committees will meet to do the dirty work throughout the week, with the goal of having their chamber's proposals ready for committee votes next week.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate will deal with a series of high-priority bills for their respective Republican leaders. In the Senate, we'll see Senate President Jeff Atwater's push for a state referendum asking Congress to call for a Balanced Budget Amendment.

The Senate jobs bill, sponsored by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, also is expected to come to a vote. The measure eliminates permitting requirements for some businesses and offers tax caps and tax incentives to targeted industries.

In the House, Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum's top priority gets fast-track treatment. It would cap the size of contingency fees offered to lawyers hired as outside legal help by his department. The cap is set at $50 million.

The House also will hear a bill that's a top priority of incoming House and Senate Republican leaders: a measure to re-establish leadership funds, political committees that let legislative leaders raise and earmark funds for legislative campaigns.

On Monday, the House's Select Policy Council on Strategic and Economic Planning hears a report by the Collins Center on the impact of oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. On Wednesday, the House Energy and Utilities Committee unveils its plan to tighten rules and regulations for Public Service commissioners and their staffers, and takes up a bill to increase incentives for homeowners and businesses to invest in renewable energy. The same day, the House Insurance, Business and Financial Affairs Committee takes up a bill to increase competition for homeowners insurance.

Budget decisions begin today in Tallahassee 03/15/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 15, 2010 11:45am]

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