The Florida Senate and House recent passed their respective budgets for the upcoming fiscal year. While overall spending is similar, the chambers are far apart on certain line items.

During legislative session, the state House and Senate each passes a budget reflecting the chamber and its members’ priorities. On April 3, the Florida Senate was unanimous in its passage of a $90.3 billion budget. The House followed the next day with approval of an $89.9 billion budget. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget plan totaled $91.3 billion.

State Rep. Holly Raschein said the House and Senate will meet for budget conferencing as there are matters to resolve. The legislature is required to approve a single budget to send to DeSantis.

“We’re far apart on certain things, but that’s why we all get together,” Raschein said. “Hopefully we can pass a bill and get it to the governor.”

DeSantis’ budget proposed $625 million for Everglades restoration and water quality improvements. The Senate’s bill took it a step further, including $656 million. The House bill, on the other hand, is at $607 million.

As for education, the Senate’s bill increases funding by $1.1 billion, about $350 more per student, while the House measure is roughly $579 million, or $167 more per student. DeSantis’ ask was $224 more per pupil. The House and Senate also have funding differences on school mental health services and Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation.

BILL UPDATES

STUDY LONG-TERM VESSELS

On March 26, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved a bill that would provide an appropriation for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to study the impacts of long-term stored vessels and certain anchored and moored vessels on local communities. Co-sponsoring the bill in the House, Raschein said there are issues where vessels become derelict and a problem on the water. She expressed support for a state plan to deal with the issue.

“Obviously, Florida is home to a number of vessels,” she said. “Imagine a number of those that get forgotten, break free or lose anchor lines and fall into a dangerous condition. They become derelict and there are a lot of issues like that. There’s also the environmental impact and they’re obviously a navigational hazard. FWC wants to take a look at this to see if we need more mooring areas or if we need to have time limits.”

“Everybody isn’t a bad apple,” she continued. “The majority who use boats are good actors.”

The bill sits in the House State Affairs Committee and the Senate Rules Committee. State Sen. Anitere Flores is a bill cosponsor.

CRAFT DISTILLERIES

Raschein is sponsoring House Bill 1229, which would allow a craft brewery to hold multiple vendors’ licenses for the sale of alcoholic beverages. There are a few distilleries in the local community, but they’re limited in where they can conduct tastings, where they can distribute or store product and how much they can sell. Raschein said the bill seeks to level the playing field between wineries and distilleries.

“The industry is new to the scene and they’re very limited in what they can do to expand their business and their business model,” she said. “It’s a forward, pro-business-thinking bill.”

The bill was referred to the House Commerce Committee on March 26.

STATUS ON RASCHEIN SPONSORED BILLS

HB3671: Provides an appropriation of $250,000 for the Harry S. Truman Little White House rehabilitation in Key West. The bill awaits consideration from the Appropriations Committee.

HB 3673: Provides $500,000 for Monroe County Centralized Receiving Facility Behavioral Health Clinic.The center, which was built over 30 years ago, is in need of security upgrades to keep clients and staff safe. The bill sits in the Appropriations Committee.

HB3683: Provides $500,000 for Monroe County Children’s Health Center. The Florida Keys Area Health Education Center will provide no-cost primary care services through eight clinical sites to medically vulnerable children throughout Monroe County. The bill gained support from the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee and now sits in the Appropriations Committee.

SB 720 and HB 525: Renames Florida Keys Community College to The College of the Florida Keys. The bill is on the Appropriations Committee’s agenda for April 11. The bill passed the House by a 112-0 vote on March 27.

HB 4737: Provides $7.5 million for the Monroe County Emergency Operations and Public Safety Center. The bill received unanimous support from the House Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee March 7. The bill sits in the House Appropriations Committee.

BILL EYES STATE CONTROL OVER VACATION RENTALS

Senate Bill 824 would preempt the regulation of vacation rentals to the state, including but not limited to the inspection and licensing of vacation rentals. Legislation would also eliminate grandfathered local government ordinances that have vacation rental regulations.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., is drawing some concern from Monroe County. Sen. Anitere Flores told the Weekly during a recent interview she shares those concerns about preempting something that’s “working very well in the county.”

“I think right now the regulations that Monroe County has for vacation rentals are working,” she said. “The state meddling with that is incredibly problematic.”

Flores said she’d only support the bill if there is an exemption for the county. Last year when the bill was moving ahead, Flores was able to get a carve-out for Monroe County. The bill didn’t get through the legislature, leaving vacation rental control under local governments. Flores says the path for the bill to move is increasingly challenging.

“I think it’s going to be pretty hard to get this passed. But you never know and you have to be vigilant,” she said. “If the bill’s going to move, we’re going to make sure Monroe County keeps local control.”

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