TALLAHASSEE — This is a make-or-break week for Florida legislators as general bills that don't get heard are dead for the session and budget committees in each chamber vote out their proposed state spending plans.
The state is facing a $3.2 billion shortfall and legislators will be setting spending priorities and making cuts in the state's estimated $66 billion budget. The House Appropriations Council will take up the House's version of the 2010-11 budget Tuesday, while the Senate Ways and Means Committee will take up the Senate version Thursday and Friday.
A series of bills to crack down on texting will get traction also this week. A bill to ban sexting — the distribution of sexually explicit material via text messages — comes up in a House Committee on Monday. HB 1335, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, would impose a civil penalty for the first offense but any offense after that would be a criminal penalty.
In the Senate, the Transportation Committee takes up two bills to ban texting while driving (SB 324 and SB448) and another by Sen. Frederica Wilson (SB 224) called "Heathers Law,'' which bans the use of cell phones on the highway and makes an exception for hands-free devices.
In the House, the fate of hundreds of bills will be decided this week, the last week scheduled for regular committee meetings.
"Expect long bill agendas as members and chairmen work to keep bills alive in the process," said Todd Reid, staff director of the House Majority Office. "If a bill is left in committee at the end of the week, odds are it is dead for the year."
Political posturing will be at its best this week as well as the House Heath Care Regulation Committee takes up HJR 37, a proposed constitutional amendment by Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, prohibiting any law — such as federal health care reform — from requiring Floridians to purchase health insurance.
And Rep. Eric Eisnaugle has a symbolic proposal, HR 1561, a resolution urging Attorney General Bill McCollum to sue the federal government challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care bill. McCollum apparently doesn't need urging, his political campaign put out a news release last week saying he is already preparing to do it.
Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com.