Budget, Education and Hurricanes at the forefront as Florida legislature convenes

Bullies, texting, hurricanes and juvenile detention facilities are some of the issues that will get attention when the legislative session begins Jan. 9.

BUDGET: Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders always have different spending priorities and it's a high-stakes election year, so the annual battle of the budget could have greater significance in 2018. Scott has proposed an $87.4 billion spending plan for next year, the biggest ever and much more than Florida can afford, House leaders say. The Legislature's economists warn that revenues face intense pressure from the costs of hurricane recovery.

EDUCATION: It's often the No. 1 policy issue at the Capitol and the focus of many budget battles, too. This year, the Senate will seek permanent changes to expand Bright Futures scholarships, state colleges will try to fend off more budget cuts, and the House will push to let students who get bullied transfer to private schools. The House also remains opposed to Scott and the Senate, who want to use growth in property values to pay for increased school spending.

HURRICANES: Mandatory backup generators at nursing homes, and tax breaks for them. Larger storm-ready stockpiles of food, fuel, water and ice. New limits on construction in high-risk areas. How Florida copes with the effects of Hurricane Irma and prepares for the next Big One will be a big issue in the legislative session. So will increased demands on services, largely in the Orlando area, as a result of the mass migration of a quarter million Puerto Ricans, who fled their homeland after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.



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