The Corcoran Report: November 2011

Redistricting and Budgeting

Florida's Legislative Session begins in January instead of March this year due to redistricting. As a result, Florida's legislative calendar has been very busy since the end of summer.

Legislative committee meetings began in September and continued for three weeks in October. Committee weeks are also scheduled in November and December, before the holiday season.

Thus far, legislative committees have met to review agencies and to receive staff presentations and updates on work performed over the summer during the interim between last session and committee weeks. Beginning in early November, committees will begin hearing legislation proposed for the coming session.

Governor Rick Scott is rolling out his legislative package. Focused on job creation, his legislative package in its entirety is anticipated by mid November. In addition, the Governor's Recommended Budget is due to be released during this period as well.

This session, two items must, by constitutional requirement, be passed by the Florida Legislature. These are a state budget for the coming year and redistricting of all Congressional, Florida House and Senate seats in the state.

The state budget continues to create challenges for policymakers. During the summer, state economists' outlook shifted favorably as the state was trending toward higher sales tax revenue collection. As a result, the state through the early summer was running a surplus of revenue ahead of expectations and did not anticipate a need for further budget cuts in the coming session.

Within the last two weeks, however, state economists have presented the latest data suggesting that the sales tax revenue collection has dropped yet again. At this time, state budgeting experts estimate the need for an additional reduction of between $1.5 and $2 billion for next year's state budget.

Several additional legislative proposals are likely to receive consideration including additional tort reform measures, potential changes to Florida's Medicaid system as dictated by the Federal government, efforts to create sales tax fairness in online transactions, and a host of others.

With the joint challenges of state budget cuts and redistricting, it is possible that many other substantive legislative issues will be unresolved by the scheduled end of legislative session.

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