Legislature must look for common ground

The following Editorial was published in The Daily Sun on Jan 11, 2022.

OUR POSITION: As the Florida Legislature convenes for 2022 we should be able to expect our representatives to look for bipartisan issues that could help all Floridians.

As legislators open up the 2022 lawmaking session in Tallahassee today, there is a lot of focus on Gov. Ron DeSantis and his agenda. It’s an open secret that DeSantis covets a run at the presidency in 2024 and almost every move he has made this past year is one that plays well to a national Republican base that loves former President Donald Trump.

DeSantis has railed against Critical Race Theory, which no school we know of within Florida teaches; he wants to toughen election laws, although he stated himself that the 2020 Florida elections were free of any fraud; and he wants other goodies like a state police force that would answer to him and help quell rioters.

Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls have shown no interest in bucking the governor’s wishes. They are loyal Republican captains. And, with such an overwhelming majority in numbers there is likely nothing DeSantis wants that won’t pass the Legislature and become law.

But let’s look past the politics. Let’s think about things that would be good for all Floridians that could actually be embraced by both Republicans and Democrats.

The biggest issue in our opinion is affordable housing.

DeSantis has signaled he is willing to put more money into solving the problem. And, as we have stated over and over, the governor, Sprowls and Simpson must keep their hands off the Sadowski Fund which goes to communities to help them build affordable housing.

We would like to see a bipartisan effort to ease the problem that is getting worse by the day. With inflation hitting low and middle-income families, the high rents we are seeing threaten to force people into homeless situations that they maybe couldn’t even imagine a year or two ago. We’re talking about families with decent jobs.

We’ll be closely watching for help in that area as lawmakers go about their business this winter.

We’ll also be looking for cooperation and bipartisanship. Those should not be dirty words. But it will be mostly up to Republicans to break the ice since they hold all the power.

Telehealth will be an issue that everyone should be able to support. Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, is sponsoring a bill that expands one passed in 2019 to allow more people access to their physicians via zoom calls etc. This bill would allow phone calls to physicians and in light of the exploding numbers for omicron coronavirus infections it should be an easy sell.

There are other topics that we have mentioned before, some of them with DeSantis’s blessing, that both sides of the aisles in Tallahassee should be able to agree on.

They include things like fewer standardized tests for students; pay raises and bonuses for teachers and school staff; pay increases for law enforcement, especially prison guards; and a bill that was vetoed by DeSantis last year but will likely return that would allow thousands of juvenile offenders to have their records expunged after completing a diversion program.

And, we hope the Legislature can come up with some ideas to help employers contend with a serious worker shortage.

There are, and will be, other bills that surface including some we expect that would better protect our water and restore the Everglades. We’d also like to see movement to expand Medicaid or provide some sort of aid for low-income families who are not eligible for federal health insurance now.

Most of all, we’d like to hear the word “bipartisan” when it comes to solutions for Florida’s problems.

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