The fourth week of the 2017 Legislative Session brought lots of floor action, and the thing everyone in "The Process" has been waiting for: Budget documents. 

The House has proposed spending $81.2 billion in fiscal year 2017-18, while the Senate’s preliminary budget documents put forward an $83.2 billion plan. That sum might be deceiving, though. The House proposal includes nearly $2 billion in tuition revenue, but the Senate plan doesn’t. Once that money is factored in, the Senate spending plan is closer to $85 billion, and is larger across the board than the House proposal. 

Following the appropriations process? Then get ready for a busy day Wednesday, when the Appropriations Committees for both chambers will discuss and vote out their respective plans. The full House is tentatively scheduled to vote on its budget April 13.

The budget may be the main event, but there’s plenty of other things on the agenda this week to keep you occupied until it’s time to talk money.

Florida House of Representatives

Get ready for a long day Tuesday. 

The House is scheduled to hold a floor session beginning at 1:30 p.m., and has several issues on the Special Order Calendar. The House is scheduled to consider a bill (HB 221) that would create statewide regulations for transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft. That bill was scheduled to be heard last week, but was temporarily postponed. 

Also on the Special Order calendar: A bill (HB 303) that spells out school districts can’t discriminate against a student on the basis of religious viewpoint or expression. On March 23, the Senate voted 23-13 to approve its version (SB 436) of the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act.

The House has also placed its “whiskey and Wheaties” bill (HB 81) on the Special Order Calendar. The bill was previously scheduled to be heard on March 29, but was temporarily postponed. The Senate version (SB 106) passed on a 21-17 vote.

Members will also begin debate on their 2017 gambling bill (HB 7037) this week. The Senate voted their bill (SB 8) out 32-6 on March 30, and legislative leaders are already preparing to head to conference to try and hammer out the differences. 

The House is tentatively scheduled to hold a floor session on Wednesday afternoon.

Florida Senate

The Senate heads into session at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, but doesn’t have as heavy of an agenda. Members will be asked to give final approval to a bill (SB 78) that would require school districts to provide 20 minutes of mandatory recess each day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. They’ll also begin debate on a proposal (SB 882) to make the Secretary of State an elected position and member of the Cabinet. 

The Senate is tentatively scheduled to be back on the floor Thursday afternoon.

Insurance

The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee will hear legislation (SB 1218) that addresses assignment of benefits abuses when it meets Monday. The bill aims to curb an increasing number of lawsuits by creating new requirements for assignments of post-loss benefits from property insurance policies. The proposal, among other things, allows insurers to prohibit the assignment of post-loss benefits and creates a regulatory system for professional water damage restorers.

The committee is also expected to take up a bill (SB 1582) that would revamp the state’s workers compensation insurance laws and a bill (SB 1766) that would repeal the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, which requires every owner and registrant of motor vehicle to maintain $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. The bill replaces the PIP coverage mandate with a medical payments (MedPay) coverage mandate of $5,000.

Regulatory

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee will take up a host of bills dealing with alcohol regulations when it meets on Monday. The committee will discuss a proposal (SB 166) that, among other things, removes the limit on how many bottles craft distillers can sell to consumers and allows craft distillers to bypass the three-tier system of separate alcoholic beverage manufacturers, distributors and retailers put in place after Prohibition.

The committee will also hear a bill (SB 1040) that would allow beer distributors to give away glasses from brewers imprinted with product names and logos to bars and restaurants, and a proposal (SB 388) that would allow beer companies to advertise in theme parks. 

On Tuesday, the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill (HB 211) that eliminates a policy requiring cosmetic manufacturers get approval before taking a product to market.

Education

The PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee on Monday will tackle a bill (HB 549) that would require the state Department of Education to release standardized tests every three years after they’ve been taken. Under the proposal, education officials would have to release the FSA for third-grade and tenth-grade English language arts and Algebra I beginning in 2020. The same committee will consider a proposal (HB 7101) that could pave the way for more charter schools in the state. 

Later in the week, the Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to hear a bill (SB 392) that would require students to take a half-credit of financial literacy to graduate from Florida’s high schools. The committee is also scheduled to discuss the “College Competitiveness Act of 2017” (SB 374) and a bill (SB 376) that addresses charter school funding.