Tallahassee Backroom Briefing: Home Cooking
TALLAHASSEE — Legislative leaders typically haven’t put their names on projects they want to include in the state budget.
But a $115.9 billion budget plan (SB 2500) released last week by the Senate included 61 proposals with Senate President Kathleen Passidomo’s name attached.
Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Passidomo, R-Naples, said in an email that the proposals are related to ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian, which plowed across Southwest Florida in September 2022, and “issues everyone knows she is advocating for — housing, health care, education.”
“She also represents Hendry County, and there are several (local funding initiative requests) related to infrastructure needs in the county and certain municipalities,” Betta added. “Her strategy has just been to personally advocate for the investments that are important to her.”
While the overall budget plan must still move out of the Senate and be negotiated with the House, examples of proposals linked to Passidomo include money for a Port LaBelle utility system wastewater treatment plant expansion; a project to convert from septic tanks to a central sewer system and improve water quality in Naples Bay; and a library project at Florida Gulf Coast University.
In all, Passidomo’s name was attached to 67 proposals. Those reaching the budget plan added up to $140.98 million. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved the plan, which is expected to be considered next week by the full Senate.
The plan did not include all of the money Passidomo requested.
As an example, Passidomo proposed $38 million for the Port LaBelle project, which would get $12.7 million in the budget plan. FGCU’s library work made the spending plan at $4.7 million rather than the requested $13.9 million. The septic tank mitigation efforts for Naples Bay drew $1 million instead of the requested $10 million.
Other projects would get requested amounts of money, such as $5 million for a project at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples; $1.5 million for an early learning center at Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples; and $250,000 for a project aimed at protecting the Miccosukee cultural tree islands in the Everglades.
Passidomo’s requests were among nearly 2,700 funding proposals filed by senators for this year’s legislative session. Almost 1,000 were sprinkled through the Senate budget plan.
With the House proposing a $115.55 billion budget, the word from House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, is that some belt-tightening is in order this year.
The budget for the current fiscal year totals $119.1 billion.
House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, isn’t so sure that everyone has gotten the message, noting that Democrats have pitched member projects that total “a little over $500 million” and Republicans in the majority have rolled out $6.6 billion in requests.
“It seems like my colleagues across the aisle might be on a little bit of a shopping spree,” Driskell told reporters on Monday.
House members filed about 3,170 proposals, with just over 1,000 included in the chamber’s budget plan.
‘WILLING AND ABLE’
As Florida communities prepare for the annual rush of spring breakers, Gov. Ron DeSantis sent a message Tuesday that police have his support to crack down on people who get out of line.
“I know it’s not the same concern in every part of the state, but we’ve seen some of the things that have happened in other parts of Florida,” DeSantis said while addressing a Florida Sheriffs Association conference at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. “I mean, we’ve seen things in Miami Beach.”
DeSantis offered state law-enforcement backing for local efforts, saying “we have resources available.”
DeSantis added that spring break shouldn’t impede “the functioning of businesses” or the “quality of life of our residents.”
“You have our support at the state level to do what you need to do, to ensure that the quality of life of your residents are maintained, that order in the streets is maintained and that businesses are able to function appropriately like they should always have to do,” DeSantis said. “And we stand by ready, willing and able to be able to help you with that.”
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said during a campaign stop Tuesday in Tallahassee that lawmakers need to continue to push ideas to reduce property insurance rates.
“It’s not fixed, right. So, we have to keep working at it,” Scott, a former governor, said during an appearance at the Florida Retail Federation office near the Capitol. “Property insurance has got to get fixed. If you tried that and it didn’t work, then you try this, and you just keep doing it. But, we have got to figure out how to get our rates down.”
“The way you have to look at it is that until it is fixed, you have to keep coming up with ideas,” Scott added.
In December, Insurance Commissioner Michael Yaworsky pointed to signs the state has “stopped the bleeding” in the industry, as additional insurance companies have entered the market and as policies have moved from the state’s Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to private carriers.
Lawmakers met in a special legislative session in December 2022 and made changes aimed at such things as curbing lawsuits against insurers and shifting policies out of Citizens. The changes came amid turmoil in the market, with insurers dropping customers and raising rates because of financial problems.
SOCIAL MEDIA POST OF THE WEEK: “Made a stop by Grouper and Chips in Naples. Check it out if you are in the area — you won’t be disappointed:” — Gov. Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis).
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