Lawmakers will likely blow their deadline to adjourn on March 13

Florida Capitol
The 22-story Florida Capitol towers over the old Historic Capitol. Credit: Diane Rado

Florida lawmakers signaled that they may have to extend the 2020 session to finish their work on a $91 billion-plus state budget and major policy bills.

“There are several important policy matters in the balance,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley said Tuesday evening.

The Clay County Republican said that means the Legislature will likely have to extend the 60-day session past its March 13 scheduled ending date.

It could be similar to last year, when lawmakers extended the 2019 session for a day in order to finish their business and pass a new state budget.

In addition to settling more than $1 billion difference between the House and Senate over the budget, Bradley said there are a number of policy differences, including issues such as criminal justice reform, funding for Visit Florida, affordable housing funding and the regulation of vaping.

Bradley said lawmakers are making “progress” in their negotiations and there are “open lines of communication” between the two chambers.

“But you’re getting to the point now where from a purely mechanical standpoint where it’s difficult to get things done by (March 13),” Bradley said.

He said he couldn’t predict yet how long the extension will be. “We’ll know more as the days progress,” Bradley said.

House Speaker Jose Oliva, a Miami-Dade County Republican, told his members that a session extension appeared “inevitable.”

“The extent of that extension is yet unknowable,” Oliva said. “But we are confident, we’re working closely with our partners in the Senate, to bridge the gaps between us. … But as of this moment, we are extending at the very least a day or two.”