Senate Dems Look To Smith For 2013 Agenda

Nov 19, 2012

Florida lawmakers are gearing up for the next legislative session which starts in March and in meetings this week Republicans and Democrats are formalizing their leadership teams and outlining their agenda for the 2013 legislative session.

Chris Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, has been named Senate Minority Leader, a position that, should democrats ever gain back a majority in the chamber, would put him in line to be Senate President. But for now, even with Election Day gains, Democrats are still the minority. But they do have some newfound negotiating power, which Smith says he plans to use on several key issues:

“And as a servant leader I am looking to focus on areas this year, three key areas: education, healthcare and insurance.”   

Smith says he’s confident the minority party and Senate Republicans can come together on  changes to the state’s home insurance market that bring down costs, and education changes that give local school boards more control. But he’s also pushing for full implementation of the federal healthcare law, or ObamaCare, and that’s where things get a lot more murky. Republican state leaders have signaled they might begin moving on health insurance exchanges, but there hasn’t been a lot of talk about expanding Medicaid, which is an optional part of the law.  And when asked about it, Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz had this to say:

Gaetz: “The legislature doesn’t have a position on that because it hasn’t met yet."

Reporter: "When they do meet, will that be a part of the conversation?"

Gaetz: "Yes.”   

Gaetz didn’t offer much more. But he is planning appoint a committee to look at ways to implement the law. Over on the House, Side, Incoming Speaker Will Weatherford has outlined an agenda that deals with state employee pension reform, campaign finance reform, higher education reform and a push to seriously consider how best to implement the federal healthcare law. But Weatherford has stopped short on commenting about an expansion of Medicaid.