TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) – Florida’s legislative session officially begins on Tuesday with a pair of contentious ballot issues but on Monday Governor Rick Scott didn’t appear to be feeling the heat.
“As you know I ran on a campaign of getting the state back to work,” said Scott as he chatted with state employees about his ‘jobs budget’.
But many political pot watchers say he should be targeting state lawmakers.
“They have very different visions on how to be conservative Republicans,” said Nova Southeastern University professor Charles Zelden.
Zelden said if they can wield a super majority the legislature will have the power to determine how to make up a $3.7 billion shortfall – not the governor.
“With a veto proof majority, as long as they can hang together and keep their quorum going, they run this state and the governor is irrelevant,” said Zelden.
So how does Scott plan to win over the legislature?
“In life, what I have tried to do is do what I believe are the logical things, the right things, make good choices and so that’s what I’ll do, sit down with members of the legislature, explain why I believe the way I and try to be as persuasive as I can,” said Scott.
One of the first items Scott may lock horns with the legislature over is a proposed state constitutional amendment designed to thwart implementation of the national health care overhaul in Florida. Legal experts have said even if it passes it would be trumped by the federal law.
Another contentious item on the agenda this week is a cap on state revenues at their 2013-14 level with allowances for population growth and increases in the Consumer Price Index.
Both are on the Senate’s calendar for this week although neither would go on the ballot until November 2012.
Scott’s administration is anticipating that one of their toughest sells will be the governor’s plan to have employees in the state pension contribute 5 percent of their salaries including teachers, cops and firefighters.
“You just don’t want to anger the cops and firefighters because not only are they symbols, they’re very active and when they get angry they not only vote against you, they get out and actively campaign against you,” said Zelden.
The governor is also calling for cutting the state work force, consolidating departments, drastically slashing the budget, including education, Medicaid and social services. At the same time he wants to cut property tax, business tax and ease regulations. Zelden feels it could be too much at once.
“They’re not wrong, we have to tackle the deficit, we really do, but we need to do it in a year or two after we got the economy up and running or we’re going to double dip,” said Zelden.
Demonstrations are expected to be plentiful with tea partiers coming to Tallahassee to back Gov. Rick Scott’s budget cutting plans, and union members and progressives planning to draw attention to those same budget plans for the opposite reason.
The first day of the session includes the State of the State speech, which for Scott will be his first. Observers expect essentially a reiteration of Scott’s inaugural address that’s heavily focused on economic development and jobs. The address is Tuesday evening.
Committee work will continue in both chambers, with a key measure for Republicans in a Senate committee on Monday. The Senate Community Affairs Committee takes up a bill to prevent unions from using payroll deductions to collect dues. Later in the week a House committee takes up the proposed repeal of septic tank inspection requirements.
Also this week the process by which ex-felons get their civil rights restored comes before the Clemency Board. Attorney General Pam Bondi wants to require prisoners to wait longer before getting their voting rights back.