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Legislature To Wrap Up Friday With Budget Vote

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) - This is the last day of the 2011 Florida legislature, and by the end of the day, it's expected that lawmakers will do the only thing constitutionally required of them every year - pass a budget.

It won't happen until lawmakers are well pas the dinner hour and eyeing a midnight snack. By law, they have to have 72 hours to examine the budget before voting, and that waiting period ends at 10:16 p.m. Friday night.

Legislators will be voting on a $68 billion spending plan that includes some tax breaks, lots of program cuts, and a requirement that state workers start contributing to their own pension fund. While lots of people will feel the pain of the austere budget, the cuts are not as deep as expected in many areas.

But the fact lawmakers can't vote on a budget until the evening hours doesn't mean they will be bored. There is expected to be some additional lawmaking today while members wait for their budget vote time. Lawmakers will also vote tonight on several conforming and implementing bills.

On the final day of the session the major pieces of legislation still unresolved include the Legislature's major Medicaid overhaul. A final vote in both chambers is expected Friday.

Another couple of measures still unresolved are the effort to rein in the pain clinic industry by putting limits on clinic prescriptions, a key issue in South Florida which is recognized as the epicenter of the pill mill business in the state.

Lawmakers will also consider a bill important to South Florida greyhound tracks that also have other gambling. The bill would let greyhound dog tracks ditch the racing and simply become poker parlors. Opponents to greyhound racing are cheering the bill because it could finally spell the end of a declining gambling business they believe is gruel to the animals who make it possible.

The law would also end the charade many greyhound tracks must face, staging races for a few hundred people simply so they they can keep more lucrative betting.

Another bill awaiting a final vote is SB 88, which needs one more Senate approval, and changes the severance and bonus pay rules for local governments.

Finally, just to show you that not all is fun in the legislature, another bill that hasn't been resolved is the proposal (HB 13) that would repeal last year's requirement for septic tank inspections. Seems as there were not enough inspectors to do the job, and the cost in some cases had one through the roof.

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