The JEJ & Associates team hopes that, with the official start of summer on June 21st, each of you will have a rewarding and relaxing summer. The Legislature wrapped up a special session earlier this month to finalize unresolved issues from the 2017 Session, which we have outlined below. After the summer break, we can look forward to once again charging forward into the 2018 Session. Legislative committee meetings will start on September 12th to prepare for an early legislative session beginning in January 2018. Legislators will also return to Tallahassee the weeks of October 9th, October 23rd, November 6th, November 13th and December 4th to conduct business.
Special Session 2017-A Recap
The three-day special session of the Florida Legislature was held June 7th-9th with the initial intention of renegotiating education and economic development issues. Thirteen bills were filed and four passed, which were all signed by the Governor.
Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron (R-Palm City) and House of Representatives Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Lutz) held a joint news conference in Miami on May 26th to announce that they had reached agreement on their priorities behind closed doors. The same day, the Governor vetoed $410 million in projects.
Disagreements developed between the chambers about the special session pact during the session. Some members of the Senate believed they were being forced to accept a deal crafted by the Governor and Speaker. The Senate wanted other issues, which they considered priorities, included in the call, such as funding for hospitals, reducing the accountability measures for VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida, and using reserves to fund these entities. The Senate also voted to override $75 million in vetoed appropriations for higher education projects. Additionally, the special session was expanded to include medical marijuana and funding for the Herbert Hoover Dike, a priority of the Governor.
Eventually, on Friday, June 9th, the last scheduled day of Special Session 2017-A, an agreement was reached on the budget and medical marijuana. The resolved issues included the following:
- A public education bill that would add $215 million to the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP), or $100 extra in funding per K-12 student.
- Full funding of $76 million for tourism marketing efforts by VISIT Florida with necessary protections for taxpayers.
- Base operational funding for Enterprise Florida to continue its work supporting job creation and economic growth and diversification.
- $85 million in targeted funding investments to help lure companies. However, the money cannot be used as an incentive for a specific company. Instead, it will be spent on workforce training and infrastructure. The program, called the Florida Job Growth Fund, will be part of the Department of Economic Opportunity.
- $60 million restored in higher education funding sought by Florida colleges and universities for 17 different projects, including the University of Central Florida, which will receive $1.69 million for its downtown campus.
- $50 million for the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike near Lake Okeechobee.
- Passage of legislation to create rules for medical marijuana related to the voters’ overwhelmingly approval of the constitutional amendment last November. The compromise includes a call for 10 new growers to be licensed this year, in addition to the seven existing ones. Five new growers would be added for every 100,000 patients with a cap of 25 retail dispensaries per authorized grower. The cap would sunset in 2020.