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Budget negotiations have begun


 The House and Senate have agreed on overall budget figures and negotiations began tonight with remarks from Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford. Smaller budget conference subcommittees are now negotiating on various aspects of the budget.

Weatherford said the relatively short window -- the Legislature is coming off a weeklong holiday break and has only two weeks to finalize the budget  -- means contentious issues will be "bumped" to the next level of review sooner, Wednesday at the latest.

In order for lawmakers to vote on the budget on the scheduled final day of session, May 2, the document needs to be finalized by April 29 to trigger the required 72-hour "cooling off" period in enough time.

Click here for the list of House budget conference members.

Click here for the list of Senate budget conference members.

The agreement on budget allocations apparently loosened some bills that had been stalled in committee. Late Sunday, House leaders announced a series of early meetings Monday to hear high priority bills for the Senate including bills on ethics reform and cannabis for medical use. Both were passed out of committee. 

Also part of the late-session horse trading are bills relating to pension reform, a House priority,  which got revived during a House hearing on Monday. Another House priority, in-state tuition for undocumented students, may be revived with a series of amendments proposed on several bills in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. That committee will also hear an amendment filed Monday on the Senate president's goal to allow for the reduction in dog racing at the state's greyhound tracks.