Lawmakers reflect as legislative session ends

Representatives to vote on state budget Friday night

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The final day of the Florida legislative session promises to be a long one as representatives vote on the $77 billion state budget, but it really depends on which side of the aisle lawmakers vote to determine whether the 60-day session was successful.

"We've had a fantastic session, and the dust is still kicked up right now," said Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach.

"This session has been disappointing for me," said state Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville.

Democrats are the minority in both chambers of the Florida Legislature. Jones calls it "unfinished business" that state lawmakers refused to budge on accepting federal money for the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid.

"It's disappointing to close out session not having talked about it, not even considered any options and addressed that," Jones said. "Because we recognize if we have healthy citizens, then we have a healthy state."

Following a healthy amount of debate on so many issues -- more than 1,500 bills introduced in this term -- Bean saw his bill on medical marijuana moving through the process in bipartisan fashion.

"It's the right thing to do to craft the language in such a narrow way that it can't be abused," he said. "It's not smokeable marijuana. It's oral-based extract that does not get you high but can and has prevented seizures in kids."

Bean said the budget surplus allowing more money to schools makes him happy, while Jones wishes for more from her colleagues.

"Education will get a nice bump as well," Bean said. "That's exciting for kids in public schools. I'm excited about that."

"Until we do all we possibly can for public schools, then we have not done enough," Jones said.

Votes on the state budget are not expected to take place until well after 8:30 p.m. Friday. The budget year begins July 1.

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