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Budget, Conservation, Taxes and Education on Steve Crisafulli's Legislative Agenda

February 23, 2015 - 6:00pm

With a week to go until the start of session, Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, spoke to Sunshine State News Tuesday about his legislative priorities.

Crisafulli said he backs Gov. Rick Scotts proposal to slash $470 million in Communication Services Taxes (CST) on cellphone and cable TV services. Asked if the Republican majority wanted to cut taxes, Crisaffuli said, absolutely, though he did not know what the final tax cut amount would be.

That conversation is taking place, Crisafulli said, noting Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, would carry the water on the matter from his perch as chairman of the House Finance and Tax Committee.

Asked about one of the largest challenges he will be facing in the coming weeks, Crisafulli said finding common ground on the budget which he said was not an easy thing to solve.

Crisafulli said implementing Amendment 1 -- a proposal Floridians backed on the November ballot requiring a third of funds procured through the document excise tax be sent to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for water and land conservation -- would also be a challenge. The speaker said he was currently examining lands already being preserved by the state.

Im focused on the land we currently own, Crisafulli said. We should first and foremost take care of those properties.

Crisafulli also said he intended to pursue public pension reform despite former House Speaker Will Weatherfords problems finding common ground with the Senate on the issue.

Its an interest of mine," Crisfaulli said, insisting the current pension costs are unsustainable" and pointing to local governments buried in their pension plans.

The unfunded liability -- we have to put $500 million up on account -- is certainly a concern," Crisafulli told Sunshine State News.

Asked about Scotts executive order from earlier in the day, suspending the Florida Standards Assessment English language arts test for 11th-graders, Crisafulli said he is looking at testing but remained supportive of it. While noting he supports the elimination of duplicated tests, he said major testing reform is not at the top of his to-do list.

I wouldnt call it a top priority, Crisafulli said, insisting standardized tests remain viable options to evaluate teacher performance and student progress. Im a proponent of measuring.

Staying with education, Crisafulli said he opposes the teacher unions legal challenge to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, insisting the program helped many young Floridians.

Crisafulli said he is not in favor of expanding medical marijuana until the results are better known about the Charlottes Web bill passed last year.

I want to see what we passed last year implemented, Crisafulli told Sunshine State News.

Turning to gambling, Crisafulli said House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa, would be in charge of the issue. With the compact with the Seminole tribes on casinos up this year, Crisafulli said the House was exploring the issue, though he admitted, Im agnostic to the issue.

Crisfaulli said he did not see much that he and Scott disagreed over, adding there will always be differences with the budget.

His budget is going to look different from ours, Crisafulli said of Scotts $77 billion proposal, though he said that was more the result of different approaches than any disagreement.

Crisafulli also foresaw little tension with President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, over in the Senate.

President Gardiner and I see the world through similar lenses, Crisafulli said, insisting both he and Gardiner were family focused and even keeled.

Ive always been someone who has worked closely with our Senate partners, Crisafulli told Sunshine State News.

Reach Kevin Derby at or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN

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