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Florida lawmakers look to revive their vetoed requests, including Panhandle projects

House members have filed nearly 750 proposals as they take a second shot at bringing home tax dollars for local projects and programs.

Lawmakers faced a Friday deadline for filing requests to tap into a new $80 million pot of money, called Local Support Grants, included in the state budget that took effect July 1. Gov. Ron DeSantis last month vetoed dozens of projects and programs from the budget.

But the pot of money was tucked away separately in the budget, setting up a new process for lawmakers to seek tax dollars. The 747 proposals filed before the deadline seek $634.5 million and, in many cases, try to revive spending that DeSantis vetoed.

Legislative leaders have released little information about the program. But the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which is made up of House and Senate members, will have two months to decide which proposals to approve.

Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said if senators wanted to pursue money, they had to work with House members from the areas they jointly represent.

As an example of the proposals that correspond to items DeSantis vetoed, Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Weston, is seeking $10,000 for the Weston Music Society to bring in professional musicians to local elementary schools. DeSantis vetoed a similar $12,000 line item from the budget (SB 2500).

On the high end, Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, requested $9.25 million for a 2.6-mile multi-use path leading to Fort Island in Citrus County. Massullo’s proposal matches money that DeSantis slashed from the budget.

Overall, DeSantis vetoed $3.1 billion in spending from what turned into a $109.9 billion budget but didn’t explain the reasons for most individual vetoes.

Among the lawmakers seeking to revive vetoed proposals is House Appropriations Chairman Jay Trumbull, a Panama City Republican who helps chair the Legislative Budget Commission and is running for a state Senate seat.

Trumbull filed 12 proposals that would total $16.7 million, including seeking $215,050 so the public-radio station WKGC can replace an aging generator, transfer switch and fuel tank at the Bay County Emergency Operations Center. DeSantis last month vetoed $187,000 for the WKGC upgrades.

“During Hurricane Michael, WKGC staff sheltered in place and broadcast 24/7 directly from the County EOC … providing Bay and surrounding counties with pertinent information gathered from Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, state and county officials,” Trumbull’s proposal said. “We were the only broadcaster left on the air, and our generator ran for weeks.”

Republicans, who dominate the Legislature, accounted for 540 of the proposals, totaling $498.7 million. Among those proposals were 64 measures, worth $70.2 million, that matched items vetoed by DeSantis.

With 207 proposals totaling $135.85 million, Democrats made 29 requests that corresponded to $8.2 million in DeSantis vetoes.