Leaders in state government gathered Wednesday as they do every year for the Associated Press’ Legislative Planning Session. Each came to voice priorities for the coming session and field questions from the Capital press corps. From education to medical marijuana to infrastructure, WFSU was on hand to catch it all. The following is an overview of what speakers, including the entire Florida Cabinet, brought to the table:
Infrastucture – Senate President Bill Galvano
Republican State Senate President Bill Galvano wants to expedite construction on transport corridors in Florida. Galvano has asked the Senate’s Infrastructure and Security Committee to look at several projects he says will benefit what he calls the “spine” of the state:
“Through our rural communities. Because so often those communities get forgotten, economically and otherwise,” Galvano said. “So I’ve asked that committee to look at extending the Suncoast Parkway as a corridor with multi-use, to the State of Georgia.”
The Suncoast Parkway currently stretches from the Tampa Bay area to near Citrus County. Galvano says he also wants a corridor going South through rural areas, from Polk County to Collier County. He’s also asking the committee to continue the Florida Turnpike connector to the State’s west coast.
Mental health in the judicial system – Attorney General Ashley Moody
State Attorney General Ashley Moody says she will give her “full effort” over the next four years to address mental health in Florida’s judicial system. Moody says some people with mental health issues are being “recycled” through the courts, despite many of them not being dangerous.
“I’ve started already meeting with the law enforcement community to talk about pre-arrest and post-arrest solutions of dealing with those afflicted with mental health (issues),” Moody said.
Moody is calling for a detailed approach from lawmakers to craft new policy. She’s also focusing on human trafficking, and says task forces have been set up to do so in all 20 of the state’s judicial circuits. Florida ranks third in the nation for reported instances of human trafficking.
Democrats to release their own budget – Democratic House Leader Kionne McGhee
Democratic House Leader Kionne McGhee says during the past 20 years of Republican rule in Florida, his party has been what he calls “reactionary.” He intends to buck that trend with some unprecedented actions:
“We’re going to release our own budget, as Democrats, for the first time. We’re going to release our own policy for the first time,” McGhee said. “It’s going to be interesting, it’s going to take Florida by storm.”
McGhee added he would like to see a budget that supports a 13 percent increase in salary for teachers. He’s also calling for more food banks across the state, and bigger tax breaks for lower-income Floridians.
School breakfast for all – Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is calling free universal breakfast for children in the state’s public schools.
“I will also be calling for universal breakfast for all of our children in the public school system,” Fried told reporters Wednesday.
Fried believes the change would allow kids who are currently receiving free and reduced lunch to not feel shame for doing so. She says a cost analysis has not been done, but believes federal and private money will be enough.
Fracking ban bill will come up again– Galvano and House Speaker Jose Oliva
The leaders of both state government chambers say legislation to ban fracking in Florida will come up this session.
Republican Senate President Bill Galvano was asked if he would support having a fracking ban bill come to a vote in the legislature.
“I would, I think we’ve got some drafts up there already that are being put into the process,” Galvano said. “So that’s an issue that will definitely come up and go through the Senate.”
Galvano didn’t say how he would vote on a potential ban bill. Though reporters did get an affirmative answer from his counterpart in the House, Speaker Jose Oliva.
“I would support a fracking ban,” Oliva said during a press gaggle following his appearance.
Measures aiming to ban fracking have died during Florida’s last two legislative sessions.