There will be two “interim committee weeks” in October, the week of October 9th and the week of October 23rd. Interim Committee weeks are held in advance of the 60-day regular session beginning on January 9th, 2018.
The October Interim Committee weeks will begin the legislative work of hearing bills, adding amendments and if reported favorably, moving the bill to the next committee of reference. During Interim Committee Weeks, the Legislature may perform all legislative activities except to have floor votes on final passage of a bill, which can only be done during the 60-day regular session. There have been over 200 bills filed for the 2018 session and there will be many more coming out in the month of October.
The October Interim Committee weeks are also when state agencies will begin to submit their budget requests for the next fiscal year. The first step in creating the state budget begins with the “Long Range Financial Outlook”. The Long Range Financial Outlook is a constitutionally required report that is approved by the Legislative Budget Commission each year in advance of the regular session. The Outlook provides a three-year picture of the state’s fiscal position by lining up the estimated budget needs with the estimated revenues. Amy Baker, director of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research presented the Long Range Financial Outlook in September after Hurricane Irma and reported that because of extensive damage from Hurricane Irma, the previously expected budget surplus is wiped out and legislators will be dealing with potentially less money for other parts of the state budget.
With the expected tighter budget, the Florida legislature will have to get serious about setting spending priorities and look for ways to reduce unnecessary spending. Speaker Richard Corcoran has already called on the members of both the House and Senate to reduce spending on what is referred to as “pork funding”, which are special appropriations requested by members of the legislature for projects in their home district. Last session, $638.4 million in member projects were filed, although Governor Rick Scott vetoed most of the pork funding to make way for his pet projects, such as Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.
We are expecting several bills will be filed in October in response to the damage from Hurricane Irma. House Speaker Richard Corcoran recently formed the Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness to conduct a review of the state response in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. This new committee will begin meeting in October and will propose legislation, such as improving Florida’s electrical grid, and requiring nursing homes to install back-up generators.
We will know more after the October Interim Committee weeks, if the Florida legislature is serious about reducing spending and reducing the expensive size of state government. Legislators hate it when they are dealing with a tighter budget, and we need to make sure they do not try to avoid spending reductions by sweeping trust fund money that is supposed to provide revenue for specific purposes such as gas taxes for building and maintaining our roads and highways.
The October interim committee weeks are crucial, they will set the tone for the rest of the session. Stay tuned, we will keep you informed and when we need you to take-action. Be sure to check out our “Legislative Ticker” on our web site. We provide up-to-date list of bills, bill sponsors, committee assignments, and explanation of the bill. We also will let you know whether we support or oppose each bill and how to take-action on each one of them.