A flurry of Republican infighting is threatening to undermine the special legislative session that begins Wednesday, at the very least raising the prospect that the three-day affair could stretch deep into June.
- Florida Special Session starts Wednesday
- Senate president says he has not agreed to an outcome
- Gov. Scott said there was economic development, education deal
While it appeared the basis for the special session -- an agreement brokered by Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran -- would enjoy the support of the Florida Senate, that assumption was called into question Tuesday in a memo issued by Senate President Joe Negron.
"As I have discussed with many Senators over the past few days, I have made no agreement that would dictate an outcome for this Special Session," Negron wrote the members of his chamber.
Such a pronouncement is virtually unheard of in the modern history of Florida special legislative sessions, which aren't generally announced until there's a broad consensus on the issues at hand -- in this case, economic development and education.
Under the agreement between Scott and Corcoran -- derided by critics as a "backroom deal" -- the governor would win approval of an $85 million economic development package and full funding for Visit Florida, the state's tourism promotion agency. Scott was stymied on both counts during the regular legislative session. In return, sources close to the two leaders say Scott has promised not to veto a controversial education bill containing Corcoran's signature 'Schools of Hope' program so spend $200 million on building charter schools in areas served by failing public schools.
Some senators have expressed concern about the deal, with Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) writing Negron on Tuesday that "I am not comfortable supporting any compromise that does not create a fair system for our publicly operated K-12 education institutions."
But what may have piqued Negron's displeasure is a side agreement that would divert $108 million in funding for state universities -- money Scott vetoed from the state budget -- to instead boost K-12 education spending. Increasing higher education funding has been a top priority for Negron -- a priority that was largely dispensed by Scott and Corcoran.
In his memo, Negron told senators to plan for a special session vote to override the governor's veto of the university funding. It could be one of many actions the upper chamber takes to stymie the game plan mapped out by the governor and the speaker.
Late Tuesday, Corcoran issued a memo of his own, all but announcing that the battle would be joined. It also expresses his newfound support for a governor whose economic development agenda he spent months lambasting as "corporate welfare."
"We stand with the Governor in his commitment to increase funding for our K-12 public schools and creating more jobs," Corcoran wrote. "But Instead of addressing jobs, honoring the will of the people in passing medical marijuana, or taking care of our public school children, the Senate President wants a massive property tax increase, wants to weaken accountability provisions for VISIT FL and EFI, and wants to raid reserves to give to hospital CEOs."