Twelve years ago Florida lawmakers created a unique new entity that was intended to deal with budget matters that could spring up during the 10 months in between the annual sessions.
It was called the Legislative Budget Commission and it is a joint panel of 14 House and Senate members.
One of its champions was veteran legislator Jim King.
King, a Jacksonville Republican and evental Senate President who died three years ago, said he wanted to create more openness about important budgetary decisions.
King said each year the Florida Legislature would approve budget items only to discover later that they were changed or ignored by budget amendments that were adopted once lawmakers had left town. Before the creation of the commission budget changes could be agreed to by concurrence of the governor and a handful of top legislative leaders.
The Senate placed the commission in a budget planning bill that was passed in 2000 and signed into law by then Gov. Jeb Bush.
It didn't take too long for the use of the commission to become a flash point. When King was president he found himself in a tug-of-war with the House over the proper role of the commission.
Back in 2003 then Rep. Bruce Kyle questioned whether or not the commission had the constitutional power to approve changes to the budget instead of forcing a vote by the entire Legislature. The argument - and similar to one that would also be at the heart of the bitter dispute over Terri Schiavo - was whether or not the Legislature could delegate some of its prime duties to others.
Kyle said at the time about a pending budget request that it was "best to let them wait for both chambers." Kyle added that it was not the job of the commission to "rubber stamp" spending requests from state agencies.
The Senate responded to the ongoing criticism by placing a constitutional amendment on the 2006 ballot that enshrined the commission in the constitution.
The measure, which included other issues including the creation of a yearly three-year fiscal outlook and a cap on the use of non-recurring funds in the budget, was sponsored by then-Sen. Jeff Atwater and was a top priority of then-Senate President Tom Lee.
Flash forward to Wednesday when the Legislative Budget Commission is scheduled to take up a controversial plan to privatize health care prison operations.
The union that represents state workers is already arguing that the LBC lacks the legal ability to approve such a change because it was not expressly approved by the entire Legislature. Tom Brooks, an attorney for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told reporters this week that AFSCME is prepared to sue to stop the privatization plan that could affect nearly 3,000 employees.
The debate should be interesting because behind closed doors there are routinely debates about whether or not a budget amendment should be taken up and considered by the LBC.
For example, earlier this summer some Senate Republicans were quietly opposed to a plan to approve new funding to the county clerk of courts. Their argument? The Florida Legislature had approved a budget without the extra funding - and therefore the commission could not contravene that decision.
But thanks to a push by incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford the commission went ahead and approved the extra funding at its August meeting.
Many of the decisions by the commission are routine such as granting budget authority for agencies to spend newly-received federal grants or letting the Department of Transportation roll forward $1.6 billion worth of road-construction money from one fiscal year to the next.
There is sure to be some legal arguments that the commission has the ability to approve the privatization plan thanks to this law.
In the end, however, if AFSCME does take the privatization plan to court it could finally answer lingering questions about the legality of the budget commission and the limits on what types of budget decisions can be decided by 14 legislators or must be decided by the entire Legislature.
(UPDATE: The commission approved the privatization move as expected. And as expected the union went ahead and filed a lawsuit.)