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Partial funding for the K-8 flooding project topped the list of Key Biscayne appropriations in a $117 billion dollar budget that passed the Florida Legislature Friday, capping a 60-day session that contained few culture war bills and more bipartisanship than previous sessions.

The next step: persuading Gov. Ron DeSantis to avoid using his veto pen. A spokesman for State Rep. Vicki Lopez, who represents Key Biscayne, says a meeting with the governor’s staff is set for Monday to talk about spending and bills she supported.

The Village had sought about $2.6 million in project funding, but wound up with less than half of that – $1.2 million. The K-8 stormwater project was funded at $500,000, half of what the Village sought.

The Village entered the session with a bit of a handicap — a last-minute change in lobbyists, after the Village Council severed ties with Jonathan Kilman. He resigned after seeking funding for a measure the Village did not want.

Lopez, a Republican, succeeded in getting her House colleagues to unanimously support a Village-sought change to e-bike and scooter laws, and for a time it looked like the measure would become law. But the measure died in the Senate, too late in the session for a fix. She said the Senate’s inaction did not appear related the the micromobility provisions.

Lopez’s signature bill, though — a package of tougher measures to crack down on wayward condominium boards — passed both chambers unanimously, as did a pilot program to help condos to make their buildings more hurricane resilient.

Village funding requests

K-8 School Flooding$1,000,000$500,000
Crandon Multimodal Traffic Study$425,000$212,500
Crandon Predictive Traffic Study$275,000$137,500
Senior Programming$125,000Not funded
Special Needs Programming$100,000$100,000
Emergency Mgmt Planning and Training$250,000$250,000
Sargassum Removal$450,000.00Not funded

Source: office of State Rep. Vicki Lopez

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Unlike the previous two years when DeSantis was gearing up to run for president, he didn’t ask as much from the Legislature. This year there were fewer divisive bills addressing issues like abortion, guns, racism and LGBTQ+ rights — and more focused on the priorities of House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

Still, DeSantis declared victory, standing with Republican leaders after the annual 60-day session ended early Friday afternoon.

“Everything that we’ve set out to do, we’ve accomplished. A hundred percent of the promises have been delivered on. All our big ticket items,” DeSantis said, naming teacher pay raises and commuter toll relief as two such issues. “We got everything that we asked for and then some.”

But in reflecting on successes, the governor mostly discussed past years instead of the 2024 session. Following two whirlwind years of polarizing bills that gave DeSantis plenty of conservative red meat to take on the presidential campaign trail, the session was relatively calm and the governor noticeably more quiet.

“A big difference between this legislative session and the last two is that we didn’t have Gov. DeSantis’ thumbs on the scale as much. I think he was trying to figure out how to recover from his failed presidential campaign,” Democratic House Leader Fentrice Driskell said.

In a show of bipartisanship, the state budget passed unanimously in the Senate and 105-3 in the House, where a Republican and two Democrats opposed the spending plan that gives all state workers a 3% raise.

DeSantis spent half the session out of the state, campaigning for president in places like Iowa and New Hampshire. By the time DeSantis dropped out of the race, the Republican-dominated Legislature was well on its way to finish early, in part due to little interference from the governor.

Renner’s top priority was a bill restricting minors’ access to social media, and he eventually advanced it in the final week, The legislation will ban social media accounts for children and teens under 14 and require parental permission for 15- and 16-year-olds.

DeSantis vetoed the first social media ban for minors, but then worked with Renner on language they could agree on.

Passidomo successfully pass her top priority — a package of bills streamlining regulations and offering incentives to improve access to health care.

Lawmakers also passed bills that range from letting schools create voluntary chaplain programs and defining antisemitism in law to letting Floridians kill bears that pose threats to residents’ homes or property.

“The really, really hardcore controversial bills, I can’t think of anything off the top of my head other than the social media bill, but that was vetoed — and we, of course, passed a lighter version of it,” said Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell, noting that a proposal to protect Confederate monuments was one of the divisive bills that died.

Meanwhile strippers will have to wait until they’re 21 to seek employment — along with other employees of strip clubs and adult entertainment venues, such as dishwashers.

There were fewer developments this year on the education front, though lawmakers did loosen child labor laws so kids who are home-schooled can work longer and later hours.

“How crazy is that?” Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell said of the new labor laws.

Brendan Farrington is an Associated Press reporter in Tallahassee


Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.

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