The election itself is also on lawmakers’ minds. Long lines at polls that began during early voting and issues with absentee ballots delayed results for several days. Florida shouldn’t be a national punch line and voters want it fixed, lawmakers said.
“All citizens have a right to vote, and we need everybody who wants to vote to be able to vote,” said Sen. John Thrasher, a Republican from St. Augustine.
Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, said the election was a “disaster” created by a shorter early voting period that led people in her district to wait in line six or seven hours to vote.
“We in the Legislature are going to make sure we fix this problem, and we’re going to make sure we listen to the voters,” she said.
During his welcoming speech, Gaetz vowed to analyze the recent election and proposed changes if needed.
But this doesn’t mean that lawmakers aren’t going to tackle the many other pressing issues facing the state, such as creating jobs, improving education and addressing health care issues.
“The No. 1 issue that has come up — is the economy and a close second is insurance,” said Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami. “The insurance prices that we’re paying down here are astronomical. It’s really impacting our senior citizens, which are our super voters down here.”
Rep. Joe Gibbons, a Democrat from Hallandale Beach, said he expects to serve on the budget committee and hopes that this year’s discussions produce a plan that both sides can live with. Most Democrats vote against the budget.
“I’m going to work as ranking member with the chair to come to some agreements so that we can as a body walk out with a balanced budget that we all agree to,” he said.
Addressing his colleagues Tuesday, Weatherford reminded them of the countdown clock he placed in all of their offices ticking off the minutes until the 2014 election.
“Our time is short,” he said. “The clock is ticking. Let us make the most of every single second.”
Herald/Times writers Steve Bousquet, Michael Van Sickler, Toluse Olorunnipa and Brittany Alana Davis contributed to this report.