Florida's Senate Democrats Put On A Brave Face

Jan 7, 2015

The Florida Senate Democratic Caucus.
Credit Nick Evans

Florida’s Senate Democrats will face strong opposition in the coming session.  The caucus met Wednesday to discuss how best to organize their legislative efforts in the coming year.

After a 2014 session in which Democratic projects were often met with apathy if not outright hostility, the minority party returns to the capitol with many of the same concerns.  But Senate Minority leader Arthenia Joyner struck an optimistic tone Wednesday at the first of her party’s caucus meetings.

“We’re looking forward to a session filled with ups and downs,” Joyner says, “and we will be on the up end of it.”

Issues like prison reform, school testing, and health policy top the list of the lawmakers’ 2015 agenda.  But with Republicans maintaining their seats in the Senate and even picking up some new ones in the House, it remains to be seen whether Joyner and the Democrats will be able to do more than just hope.    

Kissimmee Democratic Senator Darren Soto is planning to be the chamber’s Amendment One cop in the coming session. 

Soto says he’s afraid voters may be in for what he calls the “Tallahassee bait-and-switch” as lawmakers implement the program which earmarks funding for conservation projects.

“We could see it being used to justify expenses we’re already doing,” Soto says.  “My biggest concern is they’re going to take the whole list of water projects and say, ‘Look, we did it.’”

The Amendment sets aside one-third of the state’s documentary stamp tax revenue.  These taxes are generated through transactions involving official documents like deeds, bonds and mortgages.