Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Preview of the Legislative Session



The following is the first of a series of counseling advocacy updates which you will be receiving during the next several months.


A Preview of the Legislative Session

by Eric Prutsman, FCA Legislative Consultant


Last year the property tax debate took center stage during Session - this year it is time for the State's budget to be in the spotlight.  On March 4th, the Florida Legislature began the difficult task of passing two appropriations acts - the first, to cut, again, the current year budget (remember they just cut this year's budget by over $1 billion last Fall); and, the second, to cut next year's budget deeper than any Florida budget has ever been cut (currently estimated to be a cut of over $2 billion). Education will not be held harmless from the cuts, but rather it will take significant reductions.


The House and Senate have been meeting over the past two months to identify programs in the budget that have to be cut due to decreased state revenues.  Our efforts, on behalf of the Association, have been to convince legislators not to cut personnel dollars that directly fund counselor positions.  At the same time, the Legislature's Office of Economic & Demographic Research continues to release revenue forecasts that the projected revenues continue a downward trend.  Legislators are asking if Florida's economy has seen the worst yet, the State's economists haven't been able to answer that question - but do indicate that there is evidence we will see positive economic growth at the beginning of the 2009-2010 fiscal year (July, 2009).


The Governor has proposed a budget that doesn't necessarily reflect the dismal economic news in the Legislature. Instead, he has put forth a budget that uses monies from the "rainy day fund" to replace the disappearing revenues.  Declaring that "it's raining" in the current economic climate, the Governor's staff believe now is the time to dip into Florida's surplus funds to "build a bridge" to the 2009-2010 fiscal year.  As of this date, legislators do not seem interested in bridge building - but it's early - and it's an election year.


Even as the discussion of the budget crisis will dominate every issue in Tallahassee, there will be other issues considered by the House and Senate.  However, many bills have yet to be filed and it will not be until a few more weeks that we know all of the bills that we'll be supporting or opposing.  Last year's anti-bullying legislation is back, this time with additional support from legislative leadership.  Suicide prevention will return as an issue, with the Governor's Office redoubling its efforts to promote awareness and effective programs. 


Additionally, we may see some controversial proposals from the Taxation & Budget Reform Commission (TBRC), which meets once every 20 years to put constitutional amendments directly on the ballot, thereby skipping over the more obvious ways (by petition or legislative action) to get constitutional amendment issues on the November ballot.  The TBRC is currently considering a proposal that would require school districts to spend 65 percent of their budgets on classroom expenses. It passed the Governmental Procedures and Structures Committee, and now goes to the full commission. Interestingly, the TBRC is beginning to see a number of proposals that never passed in the Legislature, but are now being considered by this group of 25 persons.


As the Session moves forward we'll keep you informed of how the Florida Counseling Association is protecting your interests in Tallahassee.



FCA Office

P. O. Box 300457

Fern Park, FL 32730


407-628-0790 fax



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