Education also gets a record increase in state dollars, but other important issues were left on the table as the clock ran out.
Lawmakers ended the 2006 session just after midnight with the usual elaborate if strange ceremony, the dropping of the handkerchief in the center of the Capitol between the House and Senate. They passed the largest state budget ever, and pumped a record $32 billion into schools.
Sen. Tom Leem, Florida Senate President, said, "I’m extremely grateful for a historic increase in public education funding, 63 percent larger than any time in Florida history."
Other key issues didn’t make the cut. Jeb Bush’s controversial priorities to save the state’s school voucher program and weaken class size restrictions failed, and the clock ran out on a $60 million package for the Florida Marlins.
Lawmakers did approve a measure to limit who pays in civil lawsuits, and they voted to use more than $700 million to offset homeowner’s insurance rate hikes.
Rep. Allan Bense, Speaker of the Florida House, said, "We passed I think a good insurance bill. We passed eminent domain laws, I think, that will really help Florida. I could rattle off a long list. We did a great energy bill and affordable housing, a bill that’s great."
Democrats called it a session of missed opportunities. Lawmakers put some extra money in to help the state’s juvenile justice system, but not nearly as much as many say was needed. A bipartisan effort to ban school bullying also didn’t make it through, but supporters say they at least made their point.
Rep. Ken Gottlieb, (D) Miramar, said, “The great thing is that now we’ve had Democrats and Republicans and the entire House of Representatives realize that we have a problem in our schools."
Lawmakers now go home to start campaigning for the November elections. Democrats called the 2006 legislative session a session of missed opportunities. Lawmakers put some extra money in to help the state’s juvenile justice system, but not nearly as much as many say was needed.
Democrats were also unhappy with reduced spending on the KidCare insurance program for low-income kids, and a boost in pay for teachers dependent on how well their students do on the FCAT.