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Florida House and Senate Leaders Start Talking Priority Issues

Lawmakers in the Capitol building are teeing up some of their priority issues for the legislative session.
Nick Evans
Lawmakers in the Capitol building are teeing up some of their priority issues for the legislative session.
Lawmakers in the Capitol building are teeing up some of their priority issues for the legislative session.
Credit Nick Evans / WFSU News
Lawmakers in the Capitol building are teeing up some of their priority issues for the legislative session.

Teacher pay, firearm safety and healthcare spending are among the top issues Florida leaders listed as they made their opening statements on the first day of the legislative session.

“Members since the 1960s the House has maintained a tradition of the naming a doctor of the day. Last year the tradition was modernized with a telehealth connection and this year Dr. Cassarnio allows us to break new ground by serving as the first nurse practitioner of the day," House speaker Jose Oliva introduced Doreen Cassarino, a nurse practitioner from Naples as the chamber's first doctor of the day for the 2020 legislative session. He says allowing nurse practitioners--many with doctorates in nursing--to practice independently will lower costs and increase access to care.

House Speaker Jose Oliva says his chamber will put its “full strength” behind paving the way for advanced nurse practitioners to work independently.

“Allowing advanced nurse practitioners to practice independently will have immediate effects on access and affordability. Members it is truly a stain upon a state that prides itself on leading to even humor talk coming from advocacy groups about patient safety when we know beyond a shadow of a doubt about its safety and its efficacy,” Oliva said.

Oliva said he’s also committed to supporting the governor’s efforts to raise pay for teachers. But he told reporters he’s not convinced the governor’s plan is the best way to do it.

“We’ve made a commitment to the governor that we will put forward a significant teacher pay increase. But it has to be sustainable and equitable. We can’t go after some target and say we want to be number two in the nation. Again, two compared to what? Compared to a state whose cost of living is comparatively higher than ours? We have to take the right approach to this so it is something we can sustain," Oliva said.

DeSantis has pitched an plan to raise the starting pay for new teachers to $47,500. He says the move will make Florida more competative competitive with the rest of the country. But others have raised concerns that the plan doesn't offer raises for veteran teachers or other school employees. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have filed their own bills with proposals for giving teachers raises.

Meanwhile, across the Rotunda in the Senate, President Bill Galvano says specific agenda items aren’t his focus. Instead he says he wants to concentrate on constructive debate and collaboration.

Galvano told fellow lawmakers he hopes to set a positive tone for legislators in the new decade.

“The Senate seated before me today will always be unique in history. You all are the first senate of a new decade. We have, this session, the opportunity to set the bar for the 2020s,” Galvano said.

Galvano said he hopes lawmakers will not follow the example of Washington D.C., but instead Congress will look to Florida to see how to put politics aside and find ways to work together. He faced that challenge just hours later.

During a press conference following the opening day remarks, Galvano said he would cautiously consider Oliva’s push to give nurse practitioners a larger scope of practice.

“When I look at healthcare it’s a three-legged stool. Certainly cost is one leg of that stool but you also have access and you have quality. And so we’re going to measure all of those aspects. I have always been very cautious about letting certain groups achieve legislatively what was not achieved academically," Galvano said.

Galvano said another issue he expects to work on with the House is a move to ensure people buying guns in private sales first go through a background check. Galvano stopped short of calling the issue a priority, but did say it is “important.” Oliva has already indicated he has concerns with the move.

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.