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Recap Of Yesterday's Florida Legislature Sessions

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Florida-State-CapitolBy Tom Tillison
Orlando Political Press

Sen. Mike Haridopolos and Rep. Dean Cannon were unanimously chosen president of the Senate and House speaker on Tuesday in the Legislature’s organizational session.

“You cannot regulate your way to prosperity. You cannot tax your way to wealth, and you cannot borrow your way out of debt,” Cannon said in his remarks.  “We cannot pass a bill to end this recession. But, we can create the freedom for the private sector to build a healthy and dynamic economy.”

The newly elected House Speaker also blasted the Florida Supreme Court before the House Tuesday accusing the court of overstepping its constitutional duty as an impartial arbiter of the law;  “Over the past year three times we saw the work of a three-fifths super majority of this legislative branch, the elected representatives of over 18 million Floridians, demolished by five unelected justices on the Supreme Court,” said Cannon in opening remarks.  This was done notwithstanding the fact that there is no express authority in the Florida constitution for doing so.”

The Legislature will have two choices in 2012, according to new Senate President Mike Haridopolos: to raise taxes or spend less. And for him, the choice is clear. “We will spend less,” he said to applause. “It’s not our money. It’s their money, and if we think about that every day, we’re going to be a lot better off.” Summing up his plans for his first session at the helm of the Florida Senate, Haridopolos said “if your piece of legislation raises a tax, makes it easier to file a lawsuit or increases bureaucratic red tape,  I don’t like your chances.”

The Republican-ruled Florida Legislature took action to override seven bills and a spending provision Crist vetoed last spring, while also setting the stage for a major overhaul of the state’s Medicaid program.

For leading Republicans, many of whom were campaigning earlier this month on shrinking government and cutting spending, the three-hour special override session included some apparent contradictions that seem to clash with Scott’s campaign themes of cutting state spending and railing against the Obama administration over federal stimulus spending, which Scott called wasteful and contributing to the nation’s mounting debt:

Revived by lawmakers was a $9.7 million budget item vetoed by Crist for Shands Teaching Hospital in Gainesville. The spending, which makes the state eligible for another $12 million in federal Medicaid matching money, will help provide health coverage for an additional 18,000 uninsured Floridians.
 
Lawmakers also took up the measure to earmark $31.2 million in federal stimulus money to pay homeowners who participated in the Florida Energy Rebate program, agreeing to direct the federal stimulus money to cover what’s owed thousands of Floridians who installed qualified air-conditioning systems or made solar improvements.

State Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, filed a proposed constitutional amendment that takes aim at the Obama administration’s health care overhaul, despite the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to strike the same measure from the November 2010 ballot. The proposal tries to prevent Floridians from being compelled to participate in any health care system and sought to protect residents who want to opt out of a new federal requirement that they eventually buy health insurance or face penalties.

A six-month delay in the implementation of a septic tank inspection that riled several Panhandle lawmakers was easily approved Tuesday by both chamber of the Florida Legislature, setting up an increasingly likely full repeal come regular session this spring.

While lawmakers raced ahead with the overrides, about 100 tea party activists from groups around Florida spent the day at the Capitol, huddled in a fourth-floor Senate committee room exchanging ideas on issues.
 
Most criticized state spending practices, including the Legislature’s support for high-speed rail, Central Florida’s SunRail commuter train, while supporting lawmakers’ decision Tuesday to delay the start of a septic tank evaluation program.

*All information compiled from the News Service of Florida.

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Tom Tillison

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