What to Look Forward to in 2017

The 2017 Legislative Session is fast approaching. The Legislature will hold its Organizational Session on November 22, 2016. The Legislature will then host its Committee weeks in December – February.  During Committee weeks, key policy issues presentations and bills that have been filed will be heard in their respective committees of reference in advance of the official start of the 2017 Legislative Session set to begin on March 7th and run 60 days to May 5th.
With the new legislative session comes a new incoming Senate President and Speaker of the House. Senate President Designate Joe Negron and House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran will be the presiding officers for their respective chambers for the 2017 and 2018 Legislative Session. The change in leadership also means a new agenda and policy focus will come forward.
With this shift, we wanted to give you an overview of what policy areas President Negron and Speaker Corcoran have indicated will be their focus over the next couple of years.
Click here to view a calendar of important legislative dates.
Senator Joe Negron
Senator Joe Negron
With the kick-off of his statewide tour of Florida’s 12 public universities, President Negron made it clear that higher education will be one of his primary areas of focus.   It is his position that an additional $1 billion in funding needs to be invested in the SUS system.  It is his desire to see that more Florida Universities achieve National Elite Status and Preeminent Research.  He is looking at policies and initiatives to assure affordable and accessible Universities such as implementing a Block Tuition Model to incentivize graduation in four years.
The Environment is also of top priority for President Negron.  He will be advancing legislation to address current issues such as the algae bloom in waterways surrounding Lake Okeechobee as well as a full slate of issues such as more state funding to protect estuaries, lagoons and the Everglades, as well as prevent polluted water discharged from Lake Okeechobee by the Army Core of Engineers.
Additionally, Negron is committed to reforming the way the state’s criminal justice system handles juveniles. Negron believes that the state’s punishments are too harsh and believes that the system criminalizes our youth for adolescent behavior.
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Representative Richard Corcoran
Representative Richard Corcoran
Speaker Corcoran has put much of his focus on ethics reform and internal policy related to the inner workings of the House.   We expect to see work with House Legal Counsel and Rules on addressing concerns he has related to how the Speaker of the House is chosen and to move toward eliminating the process of candidates from seeking support from the incoming freshman class before they have even been elected to serve.
Speaker Corcoran has also been very vocal on his concerns with former legislators taking government jobs or moving into lobbying positions upon leaving their elected posts.  He has advocated for banning Legislators from taking a government job for at least six years and extending the prohibition on lobbying from two to six years as well.  He has also expressed a desire to increase transparency in the process and is looking to implement a system requiring lobbyists to publicly disclose every bill or amendment they are seeking to influence.
It expected that Speaker Corcoran will take the lead in addressing questions related to the funding of Enterprise Florida, which is a public-private partnership the state has used to incentive companies to move or stay in Florida. Corcoran has expressed his concern that agency has consistently failed the state, stating that he would rather see the $23.5 million in annual funding go toward the state’s secondary schools, colleges and universities.
Corcoran will undoubtedly be taking on key issues related to Healthcare policy and funding.  With the loss of LIP funding and the effect this will have on all areas of the budget and the continue push for Medicaid expansion as well as the numerous policy approaches with bills such as direct primary care we can plan on this topic to dominate much of the session.
As a champion for Choice Education, it is also anticipated that he will be a strong proponent for accountability and funding for charter school, and other traditional public school choice options.
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More to Come
For now, campaigns will wage on and as elections become final.  We will be able to get a better picture of the personalities and landscape that will influence the conversations around policy once we know the outcomes of the General election.  As the Presiding officers name their leadership teams, chairman and assign committees we will be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses our region to advance and defend on issues important to our community.  As the Senate and House Agendas form we will continue to share this with you as well as the prospects for the state budget and funding for critical areas such as Healthcare, Education, Economic Development, etc.