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Florida lawmakers could approve $175 million in local projects statewide

florida_legislature_2020_nsf.jpg
News Service Florida
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Florida lawmakers Friday could approve disbursing $175 million across the state for more than 230 local projects and programs, including a few similar to spending proposals that Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed in June.

The Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which is made up of House and Senate members, will consider a list of “Local Support Grant” proposals. Lawmakers submitted 971 requests for the grants this summer.

The grant money was tucked in the state budget in a $205 million pot that also will be used to provide $1,000 bonuses for first responders. The grants are a new vehicle for lawmakers to try to bring money back to local areas.

READ MORE: Florida lawmakers look to pool of money in an attempt to revive projects vetoed by DeSantis

In a memo to House members, Speaker Chris Sprowls said measures that DeSantis vetoed wouldn’t be included in the new program.

“While I believe this program is considered a new appropriation and the Legislature is not subject to statutory language related to restoring a veto, we have excluded these initiatives from consideration in deference to the governor and his review of these requests,” Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said in the memo reported by Politico Florida. “There is no recommended funding for grant requests that were identical in amounts or purpose to items that were vetoed.”

The speaker’s office didn’t immediately reply to requests for information Tuesday.

Overall, DeSantis vetoed $3.1 billion in spending from what turned into a $109.9 billion budget.

What local projects are on the list?

Some items in the new list of local support grants appear similar to proposals that DeSantis vetoed, though with tweaks or lower price tags.

As an example, DeSantis vetoed $447,090 for the Li’l Abner Foundation in Miami-Dade County to expand into a second location. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission will consider a $400,000 proposal by Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Miami Springs, for the foundation’s after-school program.

In another example, the legislative panel will look at approving $250,000 to provide emergency generators to Boca Raton, under a request by Rep. Mike Caruso, R-Delray Beach. DeSantis vetoed $1.1 million sought by Caruso for emergency generators at the Boca Raton City Hall and Municipal Complex.

The Avila and Caruso grant applications left blank an area where applicants were asked, “Were the funds provided in the most recent fiscal year subsequently vetoed?”

While all the funding requests for the new program were submitted by House members, senators were advised that if they wanted to pursue the grant money, they had to work with House members from the areas they jointly represent.

READ MORE: Florida lawmakers pass $112.1 billion budget

Spending on nearly 200 of the projects and programs in the list was proposed by Republicans, as the GOP holds large majorities in the House and Senate.

The proposed spending is topped by a $15 million request by Rep. Linda Chaney, R-St. Pete Beach, to build a facility for the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation program at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. Next highest is a $13.5 million proposal by Rep. Randy Maggard, R-Dade City, for the construction of an agriculture learning center at the Academy at the Farm Charter School, which serves middle- and high-school students in Pasco County.

Maggard’s funding request said the center will help with the mental health of students through mentoring programs and result in “about 40 jobs.”

At the other end of the list, $1,250 is sought by Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid, to help the Hope Haven Transitional Housing program purchase three air-conditioner units for rooms used to assist homeless families in Highlands County.

That proposal is one of three that will be considered Friday from among 15 submitted by Tuck. The other two are $4.5 million for the expansion of a runway at the Wauchula Airport and $1 million for Lake Okeechobee navigational channel improvements in Glades County.

The Friday meeting is expected to be busy, with the legislative panel also getting an update on the state’s long-range fiscal outlook from state economists, considering $1.5 million to hire a consultant to look at options for financial ratings for property insurers and approving money to activate Florida National Guard members to help at short-staffed state prisons.