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Florida Lawmakers Take Special Precautions During Budget Vote

March 19th, 2020 by Jake Stofan

Lawmakers held their final meeting of the 2020 legislative session Thursday to vote on the budget for the coming year.

The usually packed and celebratory event looked very different this year with the threat of the Coronavirus forcing extra precautions.

The Capitol was closed to the general public and media had to answer questions before being allowed in.

More than 20 lawmakers stayed home, but those who did come to vote had their own protocols.

Rep. Doctor Cary Pigman lead the effort to screen lawmakers behind closed doors to ensure they weren’t infected.

“We’re using the same precautions that the CDC recommends for any visit to a healthcare clinic or emergency department,” said Pigman.

On the floor, elbow bumps and sanitizer were plentiful.

Some even chose to wear gloves as they debated the record $93 billion budget.

The budget passed unanimously in both chambers, but everything in it has a question mark due to the Coronavirus.

Following the nearly vacant hanky drop to mark the end of session, House Speaker Jose Oliva remained optimistic that lawmakers will be able to keep their promise on things like environmental spending and teacher pay raises.

“We believe that a vaccine could have a very immediate turn of events and so that’s what we would hope for,” said Oliva.

And the Governor called the session a success.
“Now at the same time we now are in a different world than we were just a few weeks ago and we’re going to be looking to see how Florida is able to respond to the COVID-19,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

The state has $3.9 billion in reserves, and $60 million designated to fight the coronavirus, nevertheless, the Governor said to expect a heavy veto pen this year.

The Capitol will now close to the public for 30 days.

Short of a vaccine, it seems likely the Legislature will be forced to return not long after.

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