Florida leaders press major plans on roads, schools, environment, health care
From streets to schools, health care to the environment, Florida pioneers agree they need to address serious issues left over from the administration of Gov. Rick Scott. The most effective method to illuminate them is an different story.
In a media event in the Capitol, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Scott’s successor, touted his change obviously on the environment and signaled shifts on a teacher bonus program installed under Scott
Legislative leaders said they’re eyeing major investments in infrastructure with the help of bonds — something opposed by Scott — and an overhaul of health care regulations. Democrats, buoyed by gains in the Legislature despite losing the governor’s race last year, said they’ll release an alternative budget next month.
DeSantis said his budget recommendation to lawmakers, due within the next week, will include proposals to change the “Best and Brightest” program which pays teachers bonuses based on their scores on standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. The program was designed as a way to boost teacher pay and help retain teachers but has been criticized as unfair.
Senate President Bill Galvano said senators could take a look at cutting back some mandatory standardized tests, cited by some of the teachers who have left the profession in Florida, but named increased funding for raises as the top way to reduce the shortage.
“A lot of this boils down to funding,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, told the Sentinel in an interview Tuesday. “A lot of these decisions are going to depend on how our budget starts to shape up.”
DeSantis, Galvano and House Speaker Jose Oliva all said they back a key recommendation from a school safety commission formed after the massacre in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year: arming teachers who volunteer and receive firearms training to protect students in the classroom.
“If people are willing to go through a program, what more efficient way is there and what more effective way is there to support people who would be under attack?” said Oliva, R-Miami Lakes.
Oliva added that he’d hope to take action against school districts that aren’t giving episode reports to the state and haven’t finished measures to “harden” structures to counteract assaults.
Galvano, however, focused on the program would be voluntary and training by law requirement would guarantee guns are put away securely on school grounds.
Exactly how far Republicans will push measures to loosen up weapon control laws passed a year ago in the wake of the Parkland shooting, in any case, remains to be seen.
During the campaign, DeSantis came out in favor of bills to for concealed carry permit holders to openly carry firearms and to be able to carry on college campuses. He has also said he’s opposed to the gun control measures in the law passed after the Parkland shooting that banned rifle sales to those under 21, banned bump stocks used to modify a weapon to simulate automatic fire and placed a three-day waiting period on all gun sales.
Whenever inquired as to whether intends to push any weapon charges this year, he indicated he could hold up until a claim documented by the NRA against the firearm control apportions plays in the courts. He added he might not have a formal recommendation to lawmakers on gun laws this year.
“I’ve said that blanket bans on enumerated constitutional rights are going to be facing very significant judicial scrutiny,” DeSantis said.
Oliva, in the interim, needs to push through changes to the health care system, meaning to increase competition by eliminating or cutting back regulations for creating new hospitals. Similar bills have failed to get through the Senate in the past, with critics maintaining they will reduce the quality of service.
“All conversations around health care should all center around cost, access and quality,” Oliva said. “If we’re not having a discussion in that context we’re not really trying to solve the problem.”
Galvano likewise acquainted an arrangement to expand infrastructure, telling legislators the chamber would take up legislation to extend and expand the Suncoast Parkway, which runs parallel to I-75 from Tampa to Citrus County, up to Georgia; associate Polk County to Collier County in southwest Florida with a noteworthy roadway; and to stretch out the Florida Turnpike to connect with the Suncoast Parkway extension.
To help pay for the infrastructure projects, Galvano proposed the state could utilize bonds — another takeoff from how Scott represented the state for a long time.
DeSantis has just acted quickly in his initial three weeks in office tocombat the blue-green algae and red tides that have plagued Florida waterways. He’s swore $625 million to water protection projects and Everglades restoration and demanded the resignation of a south Florida water board.
“That shows you that I’m willing to put our money where my mouth is,” DeSantis said.
While Democrats have praised DeSantis’ actions on the environment, “It’s also admitting that our past legislatures have failed us, that 20 years of control by one side have led us to the point where we’re in desperate need of $625 million,” said House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee of Miami.
McGhee also said the House Democrats’ alternative budget plan will include a 13 percent across-the-board pay raise for teachers.