Florida lawmakers are kicking off the 2016 session Tuesday hoping to avoid the chaos of 2015, when the House and Senate had a tough time agreeing on anything. State Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) is term limited and serving in his final session.
Ethics Reform at the Grassroots:
“Now it’s time to bring those ethics reforms home to local government. Senate Bills 686 and 582 would apply ethics laws would deal with bid-rigging, bid-splitting, bribery. Addressing what the statewide grand jury called a multi-million dollar corruption tax, that we as taxpayers have to pay because sometime, sadly, because local officials ‘get in bed’ with contractors. As a result, the cost of contracts go up, and we get stuck with the bill.”
Extending EDATE – the Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemptions program tied to Enterprise Zones.
“It would be a heavy lift, because the state’s chief economist [Amy Baker] has indicated that the Enterprise Zone program really was not a good return on investment for the taxpayers. There was some places it probably worked, but [also] a lot of places where there wasn’t a whole lot of evidence that it worked well.”
Expanding the Personal Learning Scholarship Program, for those with intellectual disabilities.
“It’s a measure that’s not only important in public policy, but I believe it’s important morally. What we’ve done is to put into the budget – permanently – a Personal Learning Scholarship account, so that a family who has a child with Down’s syndrome, autism, or some other condition of that kind is able to get a $10,000 lifetime scholarship. That benefit can be used for education, or the money could be used for therapeutic services.”
On Gaetz’ bill to allow open carry of guns in Florida:
“The very unfortunate and criminal cases [San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Roseboro, Oregon, et al] had nothing to do with people lawfully able to bear arms. Our bill would not expand the kind of people who could have guns, or the places could carry guns. Instead, Florida would become the 45th state that would allow open carry. And of course, private property rights would still be respected.”
On Gov. Rick Scott’s State of the State Address:
“I hope that we’ll hear from the Governor that he wants to stay the course of continued job growth in our state. And I hope he’ll propose – and I believe he will – additional tax cuts.”
What about Don Gaetz’ future, post-Florida Senate?
“I’ve been waiting around for the University of Florida to call me to be their kicker, but even the Gators aren’t that desperate [laughs]. I’m not a candidate for any other office. In my last year in the Florida Senate, I just want to be the best Senator for northwest Florida. We’ll let the next years after that take care of themselves.”