Water, Disability Bills Quickly Go To Gov. Scott
In a sign of increased harmony in the Florida Legislature, top priorities for the leaders of each house - a water bill pushed by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and a package on education aid for the disabled pushed by Senate President Andy Gardiner - received quick final passage in the House Thursday.
The measures passed the Senate Wednesday and are now ready to go to Gov. Rick Scott for signature before the end of the first week of the session. Scott is expected to sign both bills next week.
Gardiner and Crisafulli met reporters together after the House deliberations, saying the action forecasts a harmonious session.
That was a contrast from the end of the last session, which dissolved in acrimony as the House adjourned early. That led to legislative priorities of both leaders failing.
"This sets the tone," Gardiner said Thursday, referring to quick action by both houses on the water and disability bills. "It's important to note that on all the big issues, we all have similar views."
"This is what working together can do," Crisafulli added.
The water bill aims to protect and restore springs and waterways and the northern Everglades.
As they did in the Senate, backers defeated amendments by Democrats aimed at what they and environmental activists say are loopholes and weaknesses in the bill.
Even some critics, however, said the bill is a step forward. It passed unanimously in the Senate and with only two no votes in the House -- Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, and Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami.
The disability package includes $73 million to expand a program providing scholarships up to $10,000 a year to families of children with autism, Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.
It also creates employment and higher education incentives for the intellectually disabled and increased financial incentives for school districts that require students to wear uniforms.