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Budget talks break for night with library funding likely restored

Budget talks wrapped up for the night about an hour ago. Would have updated you sooner, but we got kicked out of the Capitol's Knott building! Curfew, what curfew?

House and Senate leaders pretty much agreed to restore money for public libraries, though they still are negotiating the source of the replacement $21 million. But a stalemate lingers on House proposals to outlaw stem-cell research at state universities and research-related travel to Cuba and to make first-time drivers take a four-hour driver improvement course before receiving a license. The course costs at least $15.

Those issues carry over in talks to start at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, with House and Senate budget chairmen facing a noon deadline before unresolved issues are handed to House Speaker Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater. A final budget is due on lawmakers’ desks by noon Tuesday to allow for a mandatory 72-hour cooling off period before a final vote Friday.

Additionally, they agreed on:

  • Restoration of $7 million in Bright Futures scholarships, unrelated to previous cuts that will force recipients to pay the full cost of upcoming 15 percent tuition hikes.

  • A provision to shift some property tax money away from school districts' capital spending to day-to-day operating budgets. Additionally, the measure also allows districts to raise more property taxes to backfill capital budgets, if agreed to by a super-majority of school board members, followed by a public referendum at the next election.
  • Allocating $5 million for the University of South Florida’s medical school and $1.5 million for the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.
  • Eliminating $50,000 for Haitian American history in the preK-12 budget and restoring funding for the Task Force on African American history to $100,000.

Another carry-over issue? The Senate's push to secure funding for Florida Forever, the state’s land conservation program.