1. State Budget
The only bill that legislators are required to pass, Florida Senators and Representatives must agree on a massive state budget for Florida's fiscal year this week. As it stands, the Florida Senate has agreed on a $90.3 billion budget plan, while the House has passed a $89.9 billion budget.
Meanwhile, Gov. DeSantis' own budget plan comes in at $91.3 billion.
Prediction: With the Tuesday deadline approaching, Republican leaders believe they can make it to the finish line. Expect them to go with the Senate's budget proposal.
2. Arming Teachers
Approved by the Senate, this is a rewrite of the original proposal that gives more flexibility to school districts that want to participate in the controversial guardian program.
The proposal (SB 7030) is based on recommendations from a commission formed to examine the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year that left 17 dead. The state commission concluded that lives would have been saved had faculty in the building been armed.
Under the current program, teachers are allowed to carry guns in school if they have a role outside the classroom. School districts have to approve the program and teachers have to volunteer and undergo training and psychological evaluations. The bill, which now heads to the conservative house, opens the program up to all teachers, regardless of what role they have at the school.
The measure would allow educators who want to carry a firearm on campus to complete 144 hours of training and pass a psychological test.
Prediction: The bill will pass in the House before being signed into law.
3. Sanctuary Cities Ban
Multiple wins occurred last week for Republicans wanting to reestablish the "rule of law" in Florida. The first win came last Wednesday when the GOP-led House, after hours of debate, voted 69-47 on a bill (HB 527) that would ban sanctuary cities in the state.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Cord Byrd. The conservative Representative has been an outspoken proponent of protecting Floridians, appearing on Fox News to discuss the importance of legislation.
Then, on Friday, conservatives in the State Senate passed another sanctuary cities bill that would require local governments and police agencies to cooperate with federal authorities who enforce immigration law.
The bill (SB 168), introduced by Sen. Joe Gruters, passed on a 22-18 vote, banning sanctuary policies.
"This bill is about respecting the rule of law," said Sen. Gruters, who chairs the Republican Party of Florida.
Expected to be signed into law by Gov. DeSantis, the House and Senate will have to work out their differences. Among the differences between the two chambers' bills are penalties for violating the policy: The House includes fines for officials who adopt sanctuary policies, and the Senate doesn't.
Prediction: Expect the final bill to be more in line with the House version.
4. Firefighter Benefits
With studies proving that firefighters are more prone to being diagnosed with cancer, lawmakers in the Sunshine State approved a cancer benefits bill that would help families pay medical bills.
The bill (SB 426) would treat cancer like an on-the-job injury for firefighters. The Senate passed it unanimously last Tuesday. The bipartisan measure covers the full cost of cancer treatment, and also gives firefighters disability pay and death benefits for beneficiaries. It covers 21 forms of cancer.
Originally, the House had no intention of hearing the bill, but House Speaker Jose Oliva was pressured into bringing it up. The Republican majority approved the measure last week, too.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis championed the bill, while Rep. Anitere Flores sponsored it in the House.
Prediction: Legislators have been trying to pass a version of the bill since 2003. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Gov. DeSantis.
5. School Voucher Expansion
Last week, the Florida Senate voted 23-17 to create the “Family Empowerment Scholarship,” which would spend taxpayer money to make some lower to middle-class families eligible for state-backed scholarships to attend private schools.
The legislation (SB 7070) was introduced by Sen. Manny Diaz. The conservative Senator has been a staunch champion for expanding school choice and empowering families when it comes to choosing which school their kids attend.
The bill is a major win for conservatives looking to fix Florida's dismal education system.
The new voucher program would be capped at 18,000 students in its first year, setting an important precedent that other states can model.
Prediction: The bill is a priority for Gov. DeSantis, and is expected to pass in the House this week.