From health care and insurance to teacher raises and election reform, the 60-day session starting Tuesday could be a political do-over for a Florida Legislature looking to rewrite some of its controversial recent history.
For Gov. Rick Scott, it’s a chance to push his proposed $1.2 billion increase in education funding, including a $2,500 raise for every public school teacher, that’s part of a record $74.2 billion budget proposal. Just two years ago, Scott controlled a budget that cut $1.3 billion from spending for public schools.
For House and Senate Republican leaders, it’s a chance to undo some of the changes in the election law they wrote in 2011, which cut early voting days in half and was blamed for Election Day lines as long as seven hours at some voting locations in South and Central Florida.
And for everybody — especially Democrats who gained seats in both chambers in the 2012 elections — it’s a chance to phase in the provisions of the federal health-care overhaul known as “Obamacare,” which Scott andGOP lawmakers spent two years resisting in court.
With the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the law and with President Barack Obama’s re-election, the state will have to implement the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, including deciding whether to expand Medicaid to some 1 million Floridians who earn up to 138 percent of the poverty level.
Scott last month endorsed a three-year expansion of Medicaid, with the federal government promising to pick up 100 percent of the tab. An expansion without an expiration date could cost the state $3 billion or more over 10 years. A decision from each chamber could come Monday.
Then there’s the raft of industry-driven issues. Telecommunications companies are pushing to cut or eliminate the communications services tax. Realtors are trying to undo the sales tax on rentals. Aerospace and film companies are trying to rewrite tax incentives to deal themselves bigger benefits.