TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's 2022 lawmaking session is over, but a lot remains unfinished and hundreds of bills need a signature.
The Legislature is set to reward some districts that followed the governor's ban on masking. Plus, some lawmakers are leaving the Legislature for good.
After 63 days of work, the final gavel drop came Monday, but not before lawmakers passed the largest budget in state history. It's a massive $112 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.
K-12 education is a big part of it, getting more than $24 billion. It includes more money for students, teachers and 55 districts getting a slice of an extra $200 million, provided they followed the governor's mask mandate ban last year.
Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, helped craft that plan. Some have called his provision a punishment, others a reward.
"This program is available to all schools that followed the law last year," Fine summarized before the budget vote.
The governor will get the final say on the idea. He has the power of a line-item budget veto. During a news conference held earlier this week, DeSantis warned he would be making some changes.
"I can tell you that there will be vetoes in the budget," DeSantis said. "That's just the nature of it. I think when they did the budget conference, they agreed to certain spending to get it through, knowing that the governor would come in and save the day on some of this stuff."
We will find out what stays and goes once the appropriations billarrives on his desk — and it will be cluttered. Lawmakers passed 275 bills this year. DeSantis has yet to receive and act on most of them.
That includes controversial measures like the 15-week abortion ban, restrictions on critical race theory education in schools and businesses, and what critics call the "Don't Say Gay" bill. It bans instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity in K-3 classrooms.
Opponents have vowed to go after supporters at the ballot box.
"They will be packing up all their stuff in boxes if they don't listen to the kids," said Alex Stanwood, a transgender high schooler and activist from Tallahassee.
Meanwhile, this was the final session for two high-ranking Republicans who are both term-limited.
Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, is now running for Florida Agriculture Commissioner and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said Monday he was ready to focus on family after eight years of service.
"You know, I get to leave the Capitol — leave these doors today with my family, with no regrets," Sprowls said. "That's a true blessing."
While nothing is confirmed, many lawmakers have speculated they'll make a hasty return to the Capitol in the coming months for a special session.
Issues like high property insurance rates and congressional redistricting maps may need attention before the 2023 legislative session. It's set to start in March of next year.