A delayed end to the 2022 legislative session perfectly punctuated this year’s gathering, noted for its inability to produce a congressional map reflecting the 2020 census or a timely budget, but moving at full speed to pass controversial culture war bills and other constitution-defying legislation. When all was said and done, lawmakers returned to Tallahassee three days after what was the official end of the session to pass the largest-ever state budget, at $112 billion, and bring an end to the melee.
Using $37 million in federal money to raise the current state budget by 10%, legislators funded some very necessary matters, including a significant boost to public school funding, cancer research, food pantries, broadband expansion, Everglades restoration, and pay raises for first responders and state workers. Ironically, the budget includes a month-long gas sales tax holiday to be held just before the November midterm elections – using $200 million in funds provided by the Biden administration.
Legislators, however, missed opportunities in the budget to address a ballooning crisis in the property insurance market, where residents are being priced out of traditional providers and even Citizens Property Insurance of last resort. Legislators are likely to return to Tallahassee to address the property insurance issue, and perhaps have another cut at the congressional map.
Notable bills to pass the session included Medicaid managed-care reform, telehealth expansion, COVID-19 liability protection extensions, and creation of a Charter School Review Commission. Bills helpful to patients’ rights, child welfare, and the state’s homeless youth population received near-unanimous support in this mostly contentious session.
But in a state whose environment is its calling card, lawmakers ignored the causes of climate change and passed a bill that effectively ends incentives for home and business solar installation.
There were also important bills that didn’t pass, including condominium inspection and building safety reform, new consumer data privacy protection, and Personal Injury Protection repeal. Given the mix of what passed vs. what didn’t, it might be fair to say that this session was more about how ideas “make people feel,” rather than the bills’ actual policy impact.