Florida lawmakers are doing something they haven't done in years: adding money to state programs.
The recession sent the state into multi-billion-dollar budget shortfalls that led to big cuts in education and state government payrolls.
But this year, lawmakers have money to play with. Gov. Rick Scott has proposed a budget of more than $74 billion for the fiscal year that starts in July. That's about a $4-billion increase in spending over the current year.
The Florida Legislative Session 2013 is in full swing, and environmental groups are worried about a number of bills before lawmakers. Organizations like Audubon of Florida are focused on proposed measures that would impact environmental funding, wildlife protection, water quality and land use and conservation.
Tough economic times put environmental issues on the Florida Legislature's back burner in recent years, but this session should be different, according to Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), who sat on the panel at Monday night's Town Hall Session 2013 hosted by WLRN and the Miami Herald.
If Gov. Rick Scott's proposed $74.2 billion budget passes the Legislature intact, it would include $75 million for conservation land projects spearheaded by the Florida Forever Coalition. The 2013-2014 budget also includes $60 million for Everglades restoration and $6.5 million for restoring springs.