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Dems says Legislature “declared independence” from Rick Scott in rebuffing priorities

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Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner said Friday afternoon – after passing a tax package and budget widely divergent from that of Gov. Rick Scott – claiming lawmakers had “declared their independence” from an overbearing executive branch in doing so.

“The 2016 Legislative Session may well go down in the history books as the year Florida lawmakers formally declared their independence from Governor Scott,” said Joyner, who is exiting the Legislature due to term limits after some 40 years of involvement with the process in Tallahassee. 

 “We stopped his plan to fund education by increasing property tax collections, instead tapping $300 million in state funds for more education dollars while sparing Floridians from higher property taxes – a first of its kind in almost 20 years,” continued Joyner.  “We tightened the tap on the millions of dollars in incentive money the governor freely spent on favored corporations by refusing to replenish the fund, and we rolled back much of his $1 billion tax cut plan which offered little tax relief to most Floridians.

 Joyner hit on other sore sports while she was at it.

“We refused to confirm the governor’s pick for Surgeon General, soundly opposing an individual who failed to combat the stunning spike in HIV/AIDS cases, stripped pediatric surgical safety standards, and jettisoned thousands of ill and special needs children from Florida’s Children’s Medical Services,” said Joyner, longtime lawmaker and Civil Rights activist.

It’s also true, however, that few Democratic priorities were made law during the 2016 Session.

Orlando Sen. Geraldine Thompson claimed victory Friday afternoon for securing language authorizing the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate instances of deadly or injurious force by police, while Ft. Lauderdale Sen. Chris Smith advanced compromise language requiring police to create policies to implement the use of body cameras, both Democratic priorities.

Others, like Palm Beach Rep. Kevin Rader, indicated legislative and budget leadership was more accommodating than usual this Session, in a year where state coffers were unusually flush. Some minority caucus members likely scored more money for their districts than they had planned.

But otherwise, legislative Democrats had little to brag about in 2016, though redistricting may buoy their fortunes in November.

And Scott still holds the veto pen, which observers say he’ll be more than likely to wield this spring.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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