Local Legislative Leaders Talk Priorities For Florida's Session 2013
What's on state lawmakers agenda for the upcoming session? Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) and Sen. Maria Sachs (D-Boca Raton) discuss what's on their list with WLRN's Phil Latzman.
For Republican Anitere Flores, there's little hesitation when she's asked what she'll be working on first when the session begins.
"The most important issue that I'll be tackling this year," she says, "is Citizens Property Insurance."
The state-run insurer of last resort has been in the news a lot recently after reports of lavish travel spending and large pay increases for its executives.
Citizens has also battled claims of improper inspections to raise rates, all as the company pushed for higher insurance premiums from its estimated 1.3 million policyholders in the state, most of them in South Florida.
Flores says she will sponsor legislation that would make it mandatory for Citizens to have at leastone member of its board from Miami-Dade County, which has the most customers.
A close second on her priority list is fixing the state's voting problems by assuring that early voting days are restored to what they were in 2008 and more venues are available for early voting in future elections. For Democrat Maria Sachs, the top priority is creating job opportunities for the future and movingthe state into the 21st century. She says Floridians want the state to "grow up". "They want Florida to get in to high tech. They want Florida's medical practices and professions to be top notch. They want careers for our kids, not just jobs. How do we make Florida a state that competes with California and New York?" Has Florida not "grown up" because it's public education system isn't up to par?Sachs says, "You can see that you cannot grow jobs (and) careers unless you have a good education basis." Flores and Sachs may not agree on much, but they do share a concern about public education. Each sits on key committees which control both purse strings and policy.
Governor Rick Scott has proposed a $1.2 billion increase in education spending for the upcoming session, with nearly $480 million earmarked for across-the-board teacher pay increases of $2,500 each.
Flores, who chairs the powerful K-12 Appropriations Committee in charge of doling out funds for education initiatives, says Scott's budget serves as recognition for the governor on the importance of K-12 education, but says "that's certainly not the only determining factor."
Sachs says the Republican governor is starting to sound downright Democratic. "We (Democrats) have recognized this for a long time. I think we'll see a greater emphasis on education."