5 things to watch Wednesday at the Florida Legislature

March 27, 2013 

Florida lawmakers get back to work Wednesday for a short sprint of a week. (They are off again on Friday for the Easter holiday.) Here are five things to watch in the Capitol, plus a bonus item for education watchers:

-- U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is in town for a 10 a.m. press conference in which he will call for an investigation into Florida's handling of the Hardest Hit program. Earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Times reported that the state had mismanaged the federally funded program, disbursing only about 10 percent of the $1 billion set aside for Florida homeowners.

-- The Senate takes up a series of bills during a two-hour session Wednesday, including a bill to consolidate nine state "transparency" websites into a single website to provide the public with budget information, contracts and other government data. The bill, SB 1764, is the Senate's answer to ending its relationship with Spider Data services, a company the Senate paid $5 million to build a budget access web site that never launched. Since ending the contract with Spider Data for the "Transparency 2.0" program in December, the Senate has not replaced it.

-- At 6:30 p.m., senators will honor the life of former Sen. Larcenia Bullard, a Miami Democrat who died earlier this month.

-- The House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee is conducting a hearing on how nuclear power is planned, constructed and financed in Florida amid a push by consumer groups to repeal a law that allows utility companies to charge customers in advance for nuclear power plants.

-- The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee convenes at 4:30 p.m. to discuss a new way to pay hospitals under Medicaid. The subcommittee will also tackle Gov. Rick Scott's proposal to increase funding for medical residencies.

-- Outside of the Capitol, the Board of Governors will meet at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University beginning at 2 p.m. The agenda includes an update on Florida Polytechnic University. The state's 12th university may be in jeopardy; the Senate has not included the $22.4 million promised to Florida Poly in its preliminary budget proposal.

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