Tallahassee will have a Central Florida flavor to it when the new leaders of the Florida Legislature are sworn in in January.
Both the state House Speaker and the Senate President will hail from Central Florida, the second time in four years that the state legislature will be controlled by representatives from Central Florida. In the House, Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) will take gavel, and his Senate counterpart, Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) will oversee the Senate.
According to the Orlando Sentinel on Oct. 17, both Crisafulli and Gardiner are social conservatives, and came to Tallahassee in another wave of Republican victories that will keep the GOP in power for the next two-years. But both have said they will focus more on education and the economy during their two year tenure.
Crisafulli and Gardiner will be tasked to help keep re-elected Gov. Rick Scott’s camping promises, which includes his bold tax cut plan, a boost in education and environmental spending, and huge increases in state infrastructure, from roads to rail.
Scott may have found an ally in Crisafulli, who told the Sentinel that he agrees with Scott’s legislative priorities. Crisafulli told the Sentinel:
“Obviously, based on his campaign, jobs and the economy are his focus, and that’s something we’re very focused on.”
It’s a much different tone than the last two Central Florida representatives who controlled the legislature – Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park) and Mike Haridopolos (R-Indialantic) – who both had major differences with Scott’s legislative goals, and campaigned for Bill McCollum in the primaries this past election season.
Although both Crisafulli and Gardiner have said they agree with Scott’s policies, both are in a position they have yet to experience – the power to push their own priorities.
One of those priorities may be pushing to weaken President Barack Obama’s Common Core standards, which for the past year has been a hot topic among state education leaders and groups. Education groups in the state want Common Core gone, but legislation has never gained enough traction to get out of committee.
With Crisafulli and Gardiner in charge, Common Core legislation may have a chance to pass.
Gardiner also stated that he is interested in developing more post-secondary opportunities for students with development disabilities. According to the Sentinel, Gardiner was a key member of the “Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts” that would help special needs children pay for educational services.
The new legislative session begins in early January.