Medical marijuana left out of Legislature's special session, but that may change

Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday in Miami that he will sign the state budget approved by the Legislature this year - and call a special session next week to increase spending for schools and economic development.

"We're still reviewing (HB) 7069 but I believe that we're on a pathway to have a very good special session", Scott said. In the budget passed May 8, lawmakers did not provide money for economic-development incentives and included $25 million for Visit Florida.

The Miami Herald reported on Friday that the three men reached a compromise when Scott agreed to veto more than $300 million in member projects from the $82.4 billion state budget that the House and Senate passed last month.

The downside for Scott in such a scenario is that eliminating budget line items does nothing to restore funding for his priorities, including economic incentives, tourism and public education.

Corcoran, who did not immediately return a request for comment, wants to avoid a veto of a sweeping education bill (HB 7069) that he has made a priority.

If he vetoes the K-12 budget, it would force lawmakers back into session and essentially open up the entire budget, as lawmakers would have to find additional funding for the schools. That's still less than half of what Scott and the Senate sought, but it's a significant increase from the extra $24.49 per student the Legislature approved in its budget, which critics had described as "starvation-level". Scott argues that incentives are critical for job creation in the state.

The budget, however, allows Enterprise Florida to maintain its global offices and continue foreign trade missions.

He had complained that GOP legislators were killing jobs and could wreck the state's economy by their push for cuts to the state's tourism marketing agency and the organization responsible for luring companies to the state. The $85 million that will go to Enterprise Florida will be placed in the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund which will be created to promote the state's infrastructure and job training. But the fact that the Republican leaders of both chambers have reached a deal - after Corcoran staunchly opposed increasing Visit Florida's budget or even keeping it at the current level - is a strong indication of how the legislators might vote. The program will receive no money next year. The Legislature failed to pass a bill during its 60-day regular session that would implement a constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana. "The governor has called us into special session and we will be there and consider any proposals that emerge during that special session", said Negron.

Legislative leaders said they may add medical-marijuana legislation to the special session agenda, if they can resolve differences over the number of dispensaries that would be allowed to distribute the drugs. That could still happen over the next few days.

  • Santos West