Florida Legislative session addresses key issues

The 2010 Florida Legislative season has begun and this year there are several issues on the agenda, some that could effect Florida A&M.

Florida has a chance to receive up to $4.4 billion in federal education grants. Decisions will be made in April on the division of the money between 16 other states.

The Senate Ways and Means Policy and Steering Committee has approved a proposed bill that would relax class size. This bill was proposed originally in 2002.

“The amendment would allow for schools to feel less pressure to meet the classroom size guidelines,” said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

Provisions are also being made to help the environment and the economy. The South Florida Water Management District has approved a proposal to extend the Florida Everglades by 73,000 acres. The SFWMD wants to secure Florida sugar lands for restoration efforts.

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing pending legal issues in weeks to come, and the Everglades settlement will be used in U.S. Senate campaigning.

Florida could also become home to a wealth of new gambling resorts and casinos if a proposed agreement between the Las Vegas Sands Casinos Corporation and Florida lawmakers can be worked out.

“The time is coming for Florida to step back and catch its breath; fi gure out what direction it’s going to go,” said Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, after House Committee on the Seminole Indian Compact review listened to presentations from a Las Vegas committee.

House and Senate committees have been busy negotiating the terms of the Seminole Tribe Compact that could grant Florida more than $2 billion in revenues from the sales of gaming licenses. The Senate and House have yet to reach a decision and will be aiming
for a decision in weeks to come.

The SWMPSC also discussed regulation for dogs. A committee has approved a bill that would control dangerous dogs, but the bill could not target or prohibit certain breeds like the American Pit Bull Terrier. The bill will have to pass through two more committees in the Senate and a similar bill is on the fl oor of the House.

Gov. Charlie Crist circulated his versions of the unemployment-tax abatement bill March 17, throughout the state. Crist said the 2010 budget will not include any new taxes for Floridians.

Committees will be working hard to divide the budget appropriately, and lawmakers may have their work cut out for them.

The budget will be reviewed in several different categories.

The main holes that need to be plugged is the $924 million in federal Medicaid dollars and $842 million needed to meet the increase of the poor that are enrolling in the medical program.