The Florida House Speaker and Senate President set the tone and choose priorities for each lawmaking session. As new legislative leaders took their oaths of office this week, they talked about what Floridians can expect during their terms.
Florida’s new House Speaker is Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island). When he took to the chamber lectern for the first time, he made it clear he’s a small-government kind of guy.
“The debate over the role of government has fiercely been contested for time immoral (sic). In my judgment it is often the case that complex problems facing our society are often compounded by government interference. There is a legitimate role for government to play in our lives. However, make no mistake, that role must be limited,” he says.
Crisafulli is a seventh-generation Floridian whose family has owned cattle and citrus farms.
“A few years ago there was a proposal in the House to deregulate the registration…of livestock brands through the Department of Agriculture, an effort I opposed for a simple reason: It violated of the legitimate purposes of government: to protect private property rights,” he says.
Before being handed his gavel—made from wood harvested at his family’s orange grove—Crisafulli was officially nominated by Rep. Richard Corcoran (R- Land ‘O Lakes). Corcoran says the new speaker has a rare quality among elected officials.
“Fortunately for all of us, it is a trait that our next speaker exemplifies,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, Steve Crisafulli always, always keeps his word.”
Speaking to reporters after the swearing-in ceremony, Crisafulli said his No. 1 legislative priority is water management.
Meanwhile, in the other legislative chamber, his counterpart, Senate President Andy Gardiner, addressed a new constitutional amendment setting aside money for water and land conservation. Gardiner says the initiative known as Amendment 1 will undoubtedly cause “some pain” as lawmakers craft a budget this year.
“The challenge of Amendment 1 is not spending more money on the environment. We already spend millions of dollars in doc stamp and other state revenues on environmental issues,” he says. “The challenge facing the Senate is the impact on Amendment 1 on other areas that are also funded by doc stamp revenues, specifically transportation, affordable housing and economic development.”
The Orlando Republican said the Senate must do its best to continue the last few years’ economic growth. And he ended with a promise to be the best possible servant leader.
“I am truly beyond words humble and I will do everything I can to make you and my family and my mom and my dad proud,” he said.
Gardiner, Crisafulli and the rest of the Legislature return to Tallahassee in January for committee meetings ahead of the full legislative session.