Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, will formally move into one of the most-powerful jobs in the state Tuesday, when he becomes House speaker. Crisafulli was a late pick for the job. Former Rep. Chris Dorworth was expected to become speaker this year, but lost his House seat in 2012. Crisafulli this year led House GOP election efforts, which resulted in picking up six seats.
First elected in 2008, Crisafulli has chaired the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, was deeply involved in redistricting efforts and served as House majority leader under outgoing Speaker Will Weatherford.
After graduating from Brevard Community College and the University of Central Florida, Crisafulli began his long association with the Brevard County Farm Bureau, where he was both director and president.
Crisafulli is a seventh-generation Floridian and a member of a prominent citrus family. A cousin, the late Doyle E. Carlton, served as governor from 1929 to 1933, while one of Crisafulli's grandfathers, Vassar B. Carlton, was chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court. Crisafulli and his wife, Kristen, have two daughters.
The News Service of Florida has five questions for Steve Crisafulli:
Q: What issues are your priorities, and what would you like to see accomplished under your leadership?
CRISAFULLI: Well, certainly it's no secret that I have a great interest in water issues. And that comes from a background in agriculture, but also knowing that it's important for the future of our state to have a clean, abundant water source. So that's something I'm very focused on. I don't believe for a minute that you solve those problems in one year. I think that's something that you continue to work on -- not just over the next two years that I have, but certainly a commitment to the future from this Legislature. So that's something that I'm certainly focused on.
In the short term, I think that having an opportunity to have a good budget would allow us to do tax breaks and put money back in the pockets of those that actually send the money to Tallahassee, and that's Florida's working families. So I think there's a great opportunity to do that. Obviously, we don't know at this time exactly what our budget will look like. I mean, we have some ideas -- but certainly believe that that is something we would like to do as well.
Again, the campaign trail this year was full of conversations about jobs and the economy. And that's certainly a focus of this Legislature and this governor, and we look forward to working with the governor to accomplish those goals.
Q: What message did you get from the voters via the easy passage of Amendment 1? What are your guidelines for implementing it?
CRISAFULLI: Well, that certainly goes to my priority, and Amendment 1 falls in place with the conversation of a comprehensive water package. And I see that as something that we do need to focus on -- to your point that the voters voted heavily for it, but certainly recognizing that the Legislature still has a job to do, and that is to implement the amendment.
The concern we have is the limitations of what we can do, because we feel that we have made a great commitment to the environment in land and water acquisition over the last couple of years -- and have continued to do that with a growing budget. So now we're a little bit boxed in with the amendment, but we're certainly focused on the end goal, and that's to make sure that those resources go into the right places.
(We've heard some noises from Amendment 1 supporters who are concerned about how the implementation might go, that not all the money would go where they think it should.) Well, you know, we have a process that we have to go through, and hopefully, at the end of the day, that money goes where it is supposed to go. It's very clearly stated, "land and water acquisition and maintenance," and that's what we're focused on, and we plan to implement it in that fashion.
Q: The gambling compact with the Seminole Indians is coming up. That's mostly an issue for the governor, but where is the Legislature on this, and what would you like to see happen?
CRISAFULLI: Well, we're approaching five years now on the original compact. It's given us an opportunity to see how that compact has come into play, and it allows us to look at the results of that, to make a determination as we move forward. You know, there's a process that we will go through to look at that and find out what the best position for the future of Florida will be.
Q: The House and Senate have gotten along pretty well for two years, but they've also clashed on occasion, such as over pension reform. Do you see any impediments to getting along?
CRISAFULLI: No, I really don't. You know, from a personal-relationship standpoint with President (Andy) Gardiner, we have a great relationship. We're good friends. And you know, we're not scared to talk to each other, and be honest and frank. That's important: making sure that you're open and honest and having real conversations.
Now, from an issues standpoint, certainly there's going to be things that we see differently than they do, and it's a matter of finding compromise. Whether it's with the Senate, or, you know, with our Democrat partners, we're going to find places that we can compromise on certain issues. And whether it be (the Florida Retirement System) and that issue that continues to bubble up, we'll have those conversations and try to find, you know, common ground.
Now, with that said, the Senate is pretty much coming back with -- well, they are (laughs) coming back with the same membership. And for the House, we have different members with different things that they can apply to this process, and strengths and weaknesses, and we're going to use those and continue to build on the conversations that we'll have with the Senate.
Q: Now that your chamber has a supermajority and Gov. Scott was re-elected by a slender margin, will he have more difficulty getting his way with the Legislature as a lame duck?
CRISAFULLI: Not at all. I believe that the electorate voted for this governor knowing that he has a focus, and that's a strong economy. And we're certainly focused on working with him on that initiative.
With that said, however, I don't believe that you abuse the privilege of a supermajority. To me, it's a number. It's a great number, certainly. But at the end of the day, we have a job to do, and that's work with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle and try to find places that we can compromise. We'll certainly have places of disagreement. But ultimately, we'll try to work through those disagreements when we can, and if we can't, then, you know, those issues will rise to a different level.