The 2019 Florida Legislative Session began this Tuesday, March 5th with its usual flowers, speeches, legislative promises and for those of us who have followed it for decades, with an unexpected undertone of uncertainty. Our newly minted governor Ron DeSantis began his “State of the State” speech by comparing the US House of Representatives to “a prison” and stating that he is “privileged to be able to work with a legislative body that has demonstrated the ability to get things done and to lead.” And while many of us chuckled at the comparison and recognize that our state legislators unlike our federal ones have an obligation to approve a budget before the end of session and are motivated to get to work by the fact that they cannot fundraise while in session, a few factors make this 60 day period one that residents of Miami-Dade County should watch closely.
To begin, the Florida Senate, historically the moderate stronghold, has this session 20 new members to its 40-member body, making this Senate the first in Florida history with so many new Senators. In the House of Representative, there are 46 new members, making the grand new member total for legislators this session, 66 out of 160. Not surprisingly many of the over 3200 bills filed to date are reruns, that will more likely than not never see their way out of committee but more importantly residents, advocates and impacted parties will have to race to Tallahassee to educate new members in record time on issues that are anything but new.
Add to this that for the first time since Marco Rubio became Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2006, Miami-Dade County’s Jose Oliva takes the helm as Speaker of the House of Representatives. For those of us who remember 2005, specifically Rubio’s 100 Innovative Ideas For Florida’s Future and the talking tour that preceded his swearing in, it was interesting to listen to Speaker Oliva begin his remarks on Tuesday by stating that “great clouds have formed above us now” and hear him promise nothing but “comprehensive healthcare reform.” An ambitious platform especially towards Big Pharma given the price concessions regarding a generic Humalog made by Eli Lilly the day before the start of session and the ongoing negotiations with the Federal government.
Meanwhile, in the Senate Chamber, President Galvano, spoke to the need to invest in infrastructure and alleviate traffic congestion which excited many in South Florida until that same day the Florida Senate Committee on Infrastructure and Security unanimously approved Senate Bill 7068 which includes extending the Suncoast Parkway from the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia border and extending the Florida Turnpike west from Interstate 75 to the Suncoast Parkway with, brace for impact; Tolls. And while we in South Florida understand the need to expand roads in rural areas and make it easier to evacuate the State if needed, are local legislators may want to consider that the only two words that upsets us more than “half-penny” are “toll roads” and consider other funding options.
That said Senate President Galvano, did hit the nail on the head in his opening remarks when he quoted Abraham Lincoln; “[t]he best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” And thankfully the same is true for this 2019 legislative session, and we will be watching it, one day at time because as Abraham Lincoln also wrote [t]he legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves in their separate, and individual capacities.”
Raquel Regalado is an attorney, a former Miami-Dade County School Board Member and the Director of Operations for Optimum Development USA.