Senate President-elect Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, will have his hands full in the coming legislative session, making good on Republican promises to cut spending, create jobs, and tackle controversial bills dealing with teacher compensation, immigration and abortion.
With the largest Republican majority since Reconstruction, he should be able to accomplish most of his agenda.
As far as the elections are concerned, Im very pleased, to say the least, Haridopolos said, adding that the Senate, with 28 Republicans in the 40-member body, is now the most conservative it has been in recent history.
Haridopolos pledged to cut the size and cost of government, noting that his staff shakeup has already saved $1.2 million, and while he struck a tone of moderation and transparency in the legislative process, its clear the recent elections will have consequences.
Theres not going to be a new tax, theres not going to be any new regulations -- if anything, were going to be trying to get rid of them -- from this Legislature, Haridopolos said.
Reductions in pension plans and benefits for state employees could be on the way, and the Senate leader will also be working on implementing Gov.-elect Rick Scotts plan to cut $1 billion from the prison system.
We all saw the ads from the campaign. (State employee unions) didnt want Rick Scott, but Rick Scott won, so were going to have some negotiations there, Haridopolos said.
With a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate, Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, dont necessarily need to work with Gov.-elect Scott to achieve their agenda. But the legislative leaders have signaled a desire to work with the new executive. Haridopolos insisted there is no residual ill-will on either side because he supported Scotts opponent, outgoing Attorney General Bill McCollum, in the Republican primary.
Ive known Bill McCollum for over 10 years. Im a loyal person, I go all in and support people. I had never met Rick Scott, Haridopolos said, noting that after the primary he threw his support behind Scott, introducing him at his victory speech on election night.
The heady power of supermajorities in both chambers can be a classic trap for legislative overreach, but the new Senate leader assured a calm, deliberate process through multiple committees for controversial bills. Still, those controversial bills related to social issues -- instead of more temperate bills aimed at turning around the dismal economy, the main issue on voters minds -- are likely to be filed by the most conservative Legislature in recent times.
A bill akin to the controversial Arizona law that allows law enforcement officers to detain illegal immigrants at simple traffic stops, for example, is almost certain to come up during the next legislative session.
I wouldnt be surprised if a member of the Senate and/or House representative files a bill. If we choose to go that way, were going to have a Florida law, not an Arizona law, Haridopolos said.
The No. 1 priority for the new Legislature, though, is the economy and creating jobs. While Haridopolos shied away from setting a job creation benchmark, he wants to help Scott keep his campaign promise to create 700,000 jobs in seven years.
I cant guarantee success, the economy isnt a simple math problem. I think the benchmark that Rick Scott has set of 700,000 jobs is something we all want to achieve, he said.
Haridopolos vowed not to be heavy-handed in the way he runs the Senate; not rushing legislation through and allowing for open dialogue with Democrats, but also noted that he intends to use his veto-proof majority if necessary.
Lets be candid. The Party Im a member of won very strong election victories, he said.
Reach Gray Rohrer at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.