Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Issues to Watch in Final Week of Legislature

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Issues to Watch in Final Week of Legislature

Article excerpt

Lawmakers are entering the last week of the 2012 session that began in January and is scheduled to end Friday. As is typical, many of the most important bills will be passed in the final days, including a new budget.But lawmakers already have approved new redistricting plans for the legislative and congressional districts, which was one of the critical tasks facing them in this 60-day session. Here are five things to watch as the Legislature heads toward a close:THE BUDGETIt's the only bill that lawmakers must pass each year. Since the start of the Great Recession, it has not been an easy task, particularly with Republican leaders shunning any talk of new taxes or fees. This year's $70 billion budget is coming together with an increase in spending for public schools, although not enough to make up for last year's cut, and continuing cuts for health care and higher education. The budget bill must be on the lawmakers' desks by Tuesday to meet a 72-hour waiting period requirement, allowing for the Legislature to end on time by Friday. It looks like they will make it.AUTO INSURANCEThe attempt to reform Florida's system of no-fault auto insurance may be the heaviest lift of the final week. Gov. Rick Scott has made it a top priority, saying the existing system is rife with fraud. The House and Senate are moving competing bills. The key battles in the final week will revolve around the contentious issues of limiting attorney's fees in personal injury protection (PIP) cases and deciding the type and amount of medical services that will be covered by the law. If lawmakers cannot settle the issue, do not be surprised to see Scott call the Legislature back for a special session.POLYTECHNICSenate Budget Chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, is pushing for the creation of Florida's 12th public university by converting the University of South Florida's Polytechnic campus in Lakeland into an independent school. …

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