Letter from Tallahassee: State of the Sunshine State
Aaaand they’re off! The 2012 legislature session was gaveled into regular session this week, and lawmakers have hit the ground running.
Gov. Rick Scott gave his State of the State address Jan. 10 in a joint session of the Legislature and outlined his priorities. His first priority is to create an economic environment to facilitate further private sector job growth. Second is to increase education funding and third is to lower the cost of living in Florida to make it more attractive to new businesses and residents.
On the cost of living issue, he cited the state’s auto insurance crisis. Because of the fraud in the no-fault personal injury protection component, many Floridians can no longer afford to live in the state, which boasts a relatively low cost of living in almost every other area. In some regions of the state, residents are paying up to $4,000 in premium for a $10,000 benefit—and it is required by law if they want to drive legally in the state.
There are other major issues the Legislature is going to take up, including gaming expansion, property insurance reform and the budget, which faces another projected shortfall this year. Another hot-button issue that is sure to wind up in the courts, regardless of how the Legislature acts, is redistricting. Normally, the regular session begins in March. This year, the session was convened two months early to give enough time for the redistricting issue to be legally settled once the Legislature finalizes the district maps around the state.
Despite all the attention on the session going on in Tallahassee, many politicos are preparing for Florida’s presidential preference primary that will take place Jan. 31. Polls released this week show Romney with a double-digit lead over the candidate polling second, Newt Gingrich, and these polls were taken before Romney’s solid win in New Hampshire. Because primary elections are closed, and because it is a winner-take-all state, I consider Florida to potentially be the Waterloo for just about every campaign except Romney’s. So after the votes in South Carolina are tallied, the nation’s attention will once again turn to Florida, which is not unaccustomed to determining the outcome of national races.
Stay tuned for more updates. These next two months are arguably the most politically active in Florida until the fall!