Budget, controversy and a gubernatorial veto highlighted week six in the Capitol. As the session hit the 2/3rd point, the House spent more hours than expected debating education reform, the budget conference is poised to begin, the governor vetoed a high profile bill and good public issues made steps closer to the governor’s desk.
The second week of the sixty-day legislative session began and concluded without the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the opening of the annual meeting of the Florida House and Senate. Instead, this week dealt with the nuts and bolts of lawmaking and the slow but organized building of the state budget. The legislature’s only duty enumerated in the Florida Constitution is to pass the budget that runs the state’s government. The process, which is hosted this year by the House of Representatives (each year the hosting alternates between the two chambers) was underway at one of the fastest passes in recent memory. Although it is far too soon to project how the budget making process will end, it is the top priority of the two bodies to deal with an estimated $2.6 billion dollar shortfall as compared to the previous fiscal year. It will be a challenge to plug this enormous budget hole because, unlike the federal government, Florida is constitutionally required to produce a balanced budget each year. No red ink is allowed when the final product is sent to the governor for his signature.