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May 23, 2018

Tallahassee Trend

2009 Fla. Legislative Preview

As legislators look to slash regulations to encourage growth, environmentalists worry about losing hard-won protections from pollution. Here's a look at what lawmakers hope to tackle.

Amy Keller | 2/1/2009

Lawmakers spent the special session trying to close a growing budget gap. The regular session, which starts March 3, brings more challenges.
[Photo: AP/WideWorld]

Florida’s budget crisis and the economy will take center stage again when the Legislature convenes March 3 for its regular session. With an anticipated budget gap for 2009-10 of anywhere from $3.8 billion to $5.8 million and revenue forecasts continuing to shrink, the state is in for some extreme belt-tightening.


Budget Cuts
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A signal of just how bad times are came from House Speaker Ray Sansom and Senate President Jeff Atwater at the annual GOP retreat last November. Sansom and Atwater warned fellow lawmakers not to even bother asking for funds for pet projects. Lawmakers have also indicated they won’t be taking up any legislation with a negative fiscal impact as they look for places to cut spending.

“During these challenging times, our focus for the 2009 session must be on Florida’s economic recovery, the adoption of a responsible balanced budget and the streamlining of the overly demanding regulatory system.” — House Speaker Ray Sansom in a Dec. 16 memo
[Photo: AP/WideWorld]

The cutting will be severe. “Sometimes, in bad times, you get rid of low-hanging fruit. That probably has been done. You’re getting into core stuff now,” former Gov. Bob Martinez — now senior policy adviser at Holland & Knight — said at the law firm’s 2009 Florida Legislative Preview in Tampa.

As Florida and the rest of the nation slog through the worst economic slowdown in recent years, GOP leaders say they will use this opportunity to streamline Florida government, cut bureaucratic red tape and make it easier to do business in Florida.

In a Dec. 16 memo to fellow lawmakers, Sansom said he would be directing the Economic Development and Community Affairs Policy Council and the General Government Policy Council to, among other things, “conduct a systematic examination of Florida’s regulatory structure and present substantial changes to streamline the way permitting processes are accomplished in Florida.”

In the Senate, Atwater has appointed Sen. Don Gaetz, a Republican from Niceville, to head the new Senate Select Committee on Florida’s Economy. The panel will examine ways to reduce redundant, non-essential regulatory activities that cost the government money and create obstacles for business. While the Florida Senate “can’t end an international recession,” Gaetz says it is well within its grasp to “put its thumb on the scale anywhere we can to make it more likely that sectors of Florida’s economy can come out the recession sooner and stronger.”

Tags: Politics & Law, Environment, Government/Politics & Law

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