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Environmental budget negotiations falter in Legislature

TALLAHASSEE — Negotiations between the House and Senate about funding for environmental and water programs imploded Saturday [April 29th], as talks over a new state budget moved up the ladder ahead of a Tuesday deadline.

A visibly irritated Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, announced Saturday that he would ask for all of the issues that once separated the House and the Senate on the agriculture and natural resources budget to be kicked up to the two chambers’ budget chiefs.

That means all the issues that Bradley, who chairs the Senate’s environmental budget panel, worked out with House counterpart Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, are back to being unresolved.

House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, will now have to work out the entirety of the environmental budget. They will also make decisions across the roughly $83 billion spending plan, after issues that couldn’t be resolved by other House-Senate committees “bumped” up to the two chairmen Saturday afternoon.

Trujillo and Latvala were scheduled to hold their first meeting at 7 p.m. Saturday to discuss education issues. Lawmakers face a Tuesday deadline to finish the budget if they hope to end the legislative session as scheduled Friday. The state Constitution requires a 72-hour “cooling off” period before lawmakers can vote on the budget, which will take effect July 1.

The blow-up in the talks between Bradley and Albritton came as Bradley underscored alleged gamesmanship by the House.