The 2014 session of the Florida Legislature opens Tuesday with the usual upbeat tone, but it won’t last.
It can’t in an election year. Gov. Rick Scott wants to win a second term, Republicans want to help him and Democrats want to undermine the GOP’s agenda at every turn on education spending, school vouchers, Medicaid reform, a proposed pension plan overhaul and other issues.
Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, have proposed a bolder agenda than Scott, whose top priority is a package of tax and fee cuts totaling $500 million.
“Usually with an election-year Legislature, it’s do no harm,” said Screven Watson, a Tallahassee lobbyist and former state Democratic Party official. “The second premise is, don’t give our opponents bats to hit us over the head with. But I’m not sure that’s what we’re seeing with this Legislature.”
All of the most powerful players are Republicans, and they want to get along.
Gaetz said he expects many private talks throughout the session, so that Scott is not forced to take an unpopular position that could alienate voters during the campaign. “You check to find out: How does the governor feel about this issue?” Gaetz said.
To gauge Scott’s stand on an issue, lawmakers will lean heavily on two people: Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Scott’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth.
To get ready for Tuesday, here’s a viewers’ guide to the 2014 legislative session.
Five bills to watch
Five lawmakers to watch
Five storylines to watch
Five key dates