Reporting Tim Kephart
Legislative Session Coverage
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The 2012 Florida Legislative session begins in earnest Tuesday, but, it may be a lean year for many major policy changes as candidates begin their push for re-election.
The GOP super majority in the legislature has difficult choices ahead of it as the state budget is projected to have around a $2 billion shortfall in the coming year.
The legislature must pass a budget with severe cuts and not raise taxes or Governor Rick Scott could veto the measure.
While the legislative session has to deal with the budget, the first order of business is putting together redistricting maps based on the 2010 U.S. Census figures.
Five counties in Florida are bound to get preclearance for new districts, under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, by the Justice Department.
Once that happens, the Republicans will pass the new redistricting maps, and they will be in place for the next decade, barring any court challenges.
Complicating matters for lawmakers is state constitutional amendments placed into effect in 2010 that sought to stop the gerrymandering of districts to favor one party or the other. Plus, Governor Rick Scott has veto power over the congressional maps, but not the legislative ones.
Past redistricting and the budget, legislators have filed bills dealing with things including: drug testing state employees, abortion, and giving parents the right to choose a different teacher if a teacher gets a bad evaluation.
The big bill for South Florida was sponsored by state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and calls for Las Vegas-style casinos, but only after a county referendum will allow it to be built.
It will hold the fate of a multi-billion dollar casino planned for downtown Miami.
Some other issues that may get tackled in the current session include: dealing with insurance fraud or PIP fraud that hasn’t been dealt with for a decade; and a bill that would require Florida employers to check the citizenship status of new workers with the E-Verify database.
But, like abortion, an immigration issue that could enrage Latinos in Florida may be shelved in the current session so as not to get too much attention from voters as the GOP has one goal in 2012: beat President Barack Obama in the November election at any cost.
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