Key Legislative Issues on the Forefront in 2019
Water Policy on the Rise
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been in office for less than two weeks, but he has already sent a clear message that his administration will focus on water and environmental issues. Just two days after he was sworn in, DeSantis issued an executive order calling for $2.5 billion to fund Everglades restoration and water resource protections over the next four years. The order also instructs the South Florida Water Management District to immediately start the next phase of the reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee and creates a task force on blue-green toxic algae. The legislative branch is also signaling an emphasis on water and environmental policy with several bills already introduced on topics ranging from funding for water quality projects; local government control of water pollution; and an incentive program to assist utilities in limiting sewer overflows. These initiatives are likely only the beginning of a broad conversation to come in 2019 about preserving Florida’s natural resources. Legislators have until the first day of the Regular Session on March 5 to file bills. The week of January 21 marks the beginning of the third interim committee week leading up to this year’s Regular Session.
Education is another topic that is likely to be on the forefront in 2019. Former House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a vocal advocate for investing in charter schools and other school choice policies, was recently appointed to be the commissioner of education under the DeSantis administration. Immediately preceding his appointment, Corcoran served as an advisor on the DeSantis transition team. Corcoran’s philosophies on education reform are congruent with the education plan DeSantis laid out during his campaign, which emphasized the need for innovative reforms focused on increasing transparency; limiting bureaucracy; incentivizing teachers; and ultimately maximizing success for every child. DeSantis has also expressed a desire to expand vocational and technical education to create additional paths to success for a wider variety of students.
On his first full day in office, Governor DeSantis traveled to Mexico Beach for a firsthand tour at the damage left behind by Hurricane Michael. It was the Governor’s first trip to Mexico Beach, which suffered a direct hit from the October storm. During his visit, DeSantis vowed to stay committed to the devastated area and acknowledged that recovery for the community will be a long-term effort. Following the trip, DeSantis met with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long and local officials about continued relief efforts. DeSantis said that, in addition to up-front disaster relief money for local governments, he will also push the White House to increase federal reimbursements for debris cleanup. The need for continued federal relief funding comes at a complicated time amid the shutdown of the federal government, with President Trump considering using disaster funding intended for storm damage in Florida for a wall at the Mexican border. This is an issue that is certain to be the subject of continued debate and negotiation in the upcoming months and years.
For questions about Florida’s key 2019 legislative issues, please contact a member of our Government Relations and Lobbying Practice Group.
To read Part II of “Key Legislative Issues on the Forefront in 2019,” please click here.