Florida’s House and Senate leaders ushered in the 2019 Legislative Session Tuesday with their opening remarks – but their respective speeches differed in tone.
Senate President Bill Galvano didn’t preview or discuss specifics of legislation during his opening speech. He used his time instead to urge collaboration among his colleagues, and says it’s better to be measured than to push laws through prematurely.
“I ask that we collaborate, that we truly vet and debate the issues and policies and idea that come before us,” Galvano said. “And when an idea is not right, or a bill is not ready, let us have the courage to step back, regroup, and rethink.”
Speaking with reporters not long after his opening address, Galvano offered his thoughts on Governor Ron DeSantis’ opening day speech.
“I picked up the tone that has been present ever since he became Governor, again today, that he intends to work with the Legislature, and has respect for the Legislature,” Galvano said.
But on DeSantis’ proposed environmental budget, Galvano wouldn’t say whether he thinks it’s realistic.
“His numbers, when you boil it down, it’s $625-$630 million. You know, that’s pushing it a bit given the challenges we have budget-wise with Hurricane Michael and the impacts of Hurricane Michael, and what we spent there already,” the Senate President said.
That’s not the only point where Galvano diverged in opinion from the Governor. Galvano wants to expedite construction on transport corridors in Florida, to make the toll roads run through what he calls the rural “spine” of the state. DeSantis says he’s not in favor of tolls, which he thinks hit “blue-collar” Floridians in the pocketbook. Galvano disagrees.
“I think the opposite effect will occur. One of the reasons I’ve looked at the rural communities and the impacts there, is to bring some economic opportunity there by having the multi-use corridors,” Galvano said. “We’ll explore all options – but if you’re really getting into putting projects online and keeping them moving at a steady pace, and utilizing bonding, you have to have a revenue source.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Jose Oliva took a decidedly different tone than his Senate counterpart while delivering his opening remarks. Oliva ripped the state University system for what he says is a pattern of wasteful spending.
“It is true now that our university systems are taking longer to graduate students,” Oliva said. “It is true that often times they have grown with the desire to be larger, rather than to do better.”
Oliva says he wants reforms to the university system that aren’t necessarily sweeping changes, but what he calls a “course correction.” The House Speaker’s speech was even more brutal in its criticism of Florida’s healthcare industry, which he called a “five-alarm fire.”
“We have a great financial and human crisis looming. I’m speaking of course of the healthcare industrial complex,” Oliva said. “A terribly dysfunctional healthcare system that is bankrupting the state and many of the individuals living in this state.”
Oliva says he wants to bring reform to the industry – and unlike those he’s proposing for the university system, he wants the changes to be sweeping.
“In order to truly reform healthcare, it has to be tremendously comprehensive,” Oliva told reporters. “That means you have to create an environment where information is known, where transparency in pricing exists, where you have accountability in estimates, and then you have to have people having the ability to participate in that.”
Regarding his goals for a budget this year, Oliva says he simply wants to spend less money per resident that was spent last year.