On February 14, 2018, Florida and our nation were shaken to its core. After a gunman opened fire killing 14 students and three faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Florida Legislature and Governor Scott worked tirelessly to put a gun-safety bill into law. The bill imposed a 21-year-old legal age requirement, a three-day waiting period on gun purchases, and allowed for some school employees to be armed. The legislature is aware that the three weeks spent on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act last year is not the last time they will debate this piece of legislation. The discussion will be geared around making sure the legislation that passed last year is effective and if the legislature appropriates enough funds to protect each school in Florida.
Red tide is a seasonal occurrence that most residents who live on the coast are very familiar with. With a history of lengthy episodes, including a two-year red tide bloom in the early 1990’s, red tide has started to become more prominent in the news again due to red tide’s longevity this year. Red tide has continued for a full year now resulting in the worst bloom since 2006. Governor Scott declared a state of emergency and directed more than $13 million in grant funding for affected areas in August. The discussion to find a solution for red tide, as well as algae blooms, is going to likely start and end with budget negotiations. The main point of discussion will be the recent budget cuts to environmental agencies such as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and five regional water management districts.
Florida residents can expect to hear their elected officials this session say, “What could we have done better to protect our state against Hurricane Michael?” When the third largest Atlantic hurricane in history hits your home state, it is tough to say. Three of the largest conversations will be built around insurance rates, building codes, and climate change. First, after experiencing a major hurricane in 2016 and 2017, Florida insurers were already feeling the pressure of raising rates before Hurricane Michael became a thought. Then you have to wonder how building codes in the Panhandle will be impacted. After Hurricane Andrew, South Florida strengthened their building codes to withstand winds up to 175 mph, but the Florida Panhandle is only required construction to withstand 130 mph. Finally, there is climate change. We have all heard what scientists, Democrats, and Republicans have said about climate change. Does this sensitive discussion resurface after watching a storm that was as disastrous as Hurricane Michael? It will be interesting to see how the legislature jumps in to help lead and prepare our state for the future after Hurricane Michael’s devastation.