Today in Tallahassee: budget cuts, abortion, the courts, school vouchers

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers will spend the week polishing their proposed budgets as the Senate releases its draft spending plan Monday and lawmakers start comparing it to the $66.5 billion proposal released by the House last week.

The House spends $3.9 billion less than the current year, eliminates 5,309 jobs and cuts per-student education funding by 6.8 percent. The budget reductions are caused by a drop in federal stimulus money and the House's goal of setting aside at least $1 billion in emergency funds.

Also on the agenda Monday will be controversial bills dealing with abortion, the courts and school vouchers.

In the Senate, the Health Regulation Committee will take up three bills to tighten abortion regulations. The Senate Judiciary Committee takes up proposals to revise the rules for the retention of judges and to require Senate confirmation of Florida Supreme Court justices. And the Senate Rules and Ethics subcommittee votes on a plan to revise the rules for court review of constitutional amendments.

In the House, the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee votes on a bill to limit the liability of community organizations that work with children in foster care. And the K-20 Innovation Subcommittee takes up a bill to expand public school vouchers for disabled students.

A long-awaited bill to encourage renewable energy development in Florida gets a hearing in the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee.

The bill has had several fits and starts, having been pulled off the calendar when it included a provision that allowed nonutility companies to generate and sell renewable energy. That provision is opposed by Florida's utility giants, such as Florida Power & Light, and it has been removed from the new version of the bill released by the committee Thursday.

The committee also will vote on the confirmation of four new public service commissioners.

The Senate Agriculture Committee takes up a bill promoted by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to encourage school lunch programs to use more Florida-grown produce.

In addition to the budget, lawmakers will focus this week on Medicaid reform. The House will debate its Medicaid reform plan Tuesday and take a final vote Thursday. The $66.5 billion House budget proposal will be voted on by the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday and brought before the full chamber next week.

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@miamiherald.com.

Today in Tallahassee: budget cuts, abortion, the courts, school vouchers 03/28/11 [Last modified: Monday, March 28, 2011 12:49pm]

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