Gov. Rick Scott touted Florida's improving economy in his fourth State of the State Address, which also made a case for re-election as much as it laid out his plan for the final year of his first term. Any doubts that the 30 minute speech would also serve as the unofficial kickoff to Gov. Scott’s re-election bid were dispelled right out of the gate. The Republican referred to the economy under predecessor Charlie Crist – without mentioning the former Republican who is now running for governor as a Democrat. “Florida was in a hole. Unemployment was around 11%,” said Scott. “More than one million people in Florida were out of work. Our debt had ballooned to over $28 billion. The year was 2010. Some say these statistics were because of a global recession. I disagree.” Scott then discussed Florida's improving employment picture and took credit for making the state more business friendly by cutting regulations and lowering taxes. The Governor then turned to his wish list for the 2014 legislative session with his top priority: cutting taxes and fees by another $500 million. In education, Scott was of two minds. He proposes to invest "record amounts" in K-12. But he reiterated that he’s committed to holding "the line" on college tuition, to keep higher-education costs low. Delivering the Democratic response were two lawmakers from Ft. Lauderdale. Sen. Chris Smith touched not so much on what the Governor said, but what he didn’t say. “Young people are out in the halls today,” said Smith, “asking the Governor to address things like ‘Stand Your Ground’ and other public safety concerns that’s (sic) making them feel not feel as safe in Florida as they should.” Other topics Smith says were bypassed by Scott include stemming Florida’s prison population; infrastructure spending in public education, job creation in some of the smaller counties, and Medicaid expansion. House Minority Leader Perry Thurston said one of the session’s most important issues is the plight of the state’s workforce. He’s calling for a raise in Florida’s minimum wage to at least the proposed federal level of ten dollars-ten cents an hour. The 60-day legislative session is expected to cover everything – as many have been saying – from guns to gambling. Among the higher-profile measures: private school vouchers, restricting retirement benefits for future public employees, incentives for military veterans and tougher laws for sexual offenders. One issue that will not be considered is any change in Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
Florida Governor Rick Scott delivers his annual State of the State address Tuesday, March 4, signaling the start of the 2014 Legislative Session. His speech will start at 10 a.m. Central Time. Again this year, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford have joined together on a priority agenda. “These are issues that rise above politics and we think they can get done. They must get done. We will get them done,” says Gaetz, a Republican from Niceville.
Florida’s new second-in-command began work on Monday. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is the state’s 19th lieutenant governor and first Latino to hold that office.
The 40-year-old Lopez-Cantera -- a former state legislator and Miami-Dade Property Appraiser -- was sworn in by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston in a small, private ceremony held in the governor's office. A public swearing-in was held Monday afternoon.
As part of his remarks, Lopez-Cantera recited some of the talking points he and Governor Rick Scott will carry onto the campaign trail this year.