Tallahassee story

Tallahassee Legislative Update: 2014 expectations

Crisafulli Rising

State Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, is preparing to become the next speaker of the Florida House, a high honor for the Super Region lawmaker. Like most savvy lawmakers, he has not completely tipped his hand about his 2014 plans, but in interviews and guest columns he generally has been forthcoming about key positions.

Some of what the 42-year-old University of Central Florida graduate has said is not surprising. A lawmaker from the Space Coast is going to be a strong champion of initiatives that help Florida’s burgeoning commercial space industry. However, Crisafulli also has shown a willingness to speak frankly and comprehensively about pressing and controversial issues that one does not find in many legislators with five years’ experience.

In an interview with Florida Today, he largely closed the door to reconsidering a Medicaid expansion, at least under the Obamacare umbrella.

“I don’t believe expanding Medicaid is the best way to expand the safety net of Floridians,” he said. “I think that last year, the House put out a plan that was a very good alternative. Obviously, we can look at that again this year.”

In a blog on the Tallahassee Democrat’s website, the future speaker deemed the state’s water supply its critical resource and derided the “piecemeal” and “parochial” approach that has dominated water planning. Crisafulli called on state leaders to embrace three principles: 1) legislation must be statewide and comprehensive; 2) it must be flexible enough to allow for a rapid response to changing circumstances; and 3) it must blend long-term water management planning with short-term protective measures for immediate supply needs.

Teacher Pay

Gov. Rick Scott in early December began a campaign, via traditional social media, to urge more than 20 counties to finish implementing the $480 million in teacher pay raises the governor convinced the Legislature to pass. The raises would range between $2,500 and $3,500 annually.

As of Dec. 6, five Super Region counties had not finalized their plans: DeSoto, Hernando, Levy, Marion and Orange.

Lawmakers and Sports

In a nod to this magazine issue’s theme, it’s interesting to note that lawmakers’ sporting passions have kept up with the times. Friendly wagers and even televised floor speeches about favorite teams are so 20th century. Today, Twitter is where it’s at.

Scott regularly tweets congratulatory notes to Florida teams. Former Gov. Jeb Bush keeps followers updated on his fantasy football team (congratulations, governor, on making the playoffs). But on Dec. 7, Crisafulli became the ultimate Twitter super fan. In addition to loving his alma mater, UCF, followers also know he has a soft spot for the Auburn Tigers.

As the day dawned, UCF (conference title secured) was playing its final regular season game and Auburn was preparing for the Southeastern Conference championship game. Crisafulli tweeted a tame, “It’s a great day to be an Auburn Tiger and a UCF Knight!!” By evening, UCF and Auburn had won their games. All his adopted Tigers needed to make the BCS Championship Game was for Michigan State to upset No. 2 Ohio State in the Big 10 title game. Crisafulli would not need anything close to 140 characters to get his feelings across. He wrote, simply: “War Eagle!! Let’s go Spartans!!” Michigan State won.