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There’s a week left for this year’s Legislature. Here’s what’s still undecided in the budget.

The leaders of the House and Senate still have to work out hospital funding and money for K-12 schools and higher education.
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Published Mar. 5, 2018

There's one week left in this year's Legislative session, and there's a lot of money left on the table to be bargained over between House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron.

If lawmakers want to end by Friday, the leaders of both houses need to present a budget by Tuesday.

Here's what's been decided, and what's still up in the air:


Response to Parkland: This has become the Legislature's top priority, and despite disputes over policies like arming teachers, lawmakers are set to spend $400 million on more school cops, stronger locks and windows in schools and mental health services for students, among other things.

Affordable housing: The House and Senate have agreed to spend $109 million on two affordable-housing programs. (The Senate wanted to spend $300 million.) Of that, $15 million will go to moderate-income residents in the Keys, which was hit hard by Hurricane Irma last year.

Florida Forever: More than $100 million will be spent on the state program that buys up land to be set aside for conservation. It's a big boost for the typically-underfunded program.

Visit Florida: Florida's tourism arm has been a constant source of drama lately, but despite resistance from the Senate, both sides have agreed to maintain its $76 million budget for another year. The only politician who seemed to feel strongly about it is Gov. Rick Scott, who wanted to spend $100 million.

Criminal justice issues: The Legislature agreed to dedicate $1 million for more cameras in juvenile prisons, the result of the Miami Herald's "Fight Club" series. But it made deep cuts to inmate re-entry programs, local courts and law enforcement.

Clemency money: After a federal judge ruled that Florida's system for restoring felons' voting rights was unconstitutional, the Senate wanted to spend $750,000 to process the backlog of 10,000 felons who have applied to have their rights restored. House leaders wanted to spend nothing, though, and their counterparts in the Senate eventually complied and agreed to spend nothing, too.


Health care: The House and Senate have to negotiate how hospitals will be reimbursed for Medicaid care, as well as a proposed $130 million boost for nursing homes in the Senate budget through state and federal funds. Funding for the Healthy Start program, a risk screening program for pregnant women and infants, is also on the table. Senators had trimmed Head Start's budget by a third, believing its services are being done by other groups.

K-12 schools: The state's per-student funding is largely still up in the air, as the Parkland bills will determine large chunks of new funds for more mental health professionals and other programs that will be doled out to districts based on their number of students.

However, it appears that the House has won a battle over how the state will determine the Required Local Effort, or how local property taxes will be assessed to fund schools. The Senate had wanted to tax the increased property values, which have risen as the economy has improved. But it eventually conceded to the House, which saw that method as a tax increase and chose instead to just tax new development.

Colleges and universities: The Senate Higher Education Committee started the session calling for hundreds of millions in new money for universities, but it doesn't look like that will happen. In the most recent higher education budget negotiations, there were no increases in base funding for universities, and it appears the Legislature is stepping away from the Senate-backed idea of funding based on performance and faltering on boosts to "preeminent," or highest-ranked universities like the University of Florida and Florida State. However, the House was convinced by the Senate to increase the funding awards for certain Bright Futures "Medallion Scholars," who have strong GPAs but weren't qualified enough to get the "Academic Scholars" award.

Environmental issues: Both houses were still at loggerheads Friday over giving more than $70 million to homeowners who lost trees to citrus canker or the state's canker eradication program. And they were also in disagreement over millions in hurricane beach recovery and other environmental issues.

The News Service of Florida and Times/Herald staff writers Mary Ellen Klas and Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.