Laundry list of accomplishments shows Jeff Brandes has learned to get things done in Legislature

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As the dust settles from the 2014 Legislative Session, and final reviews are written, it is clear that few lawmakers will have the impact on the lives of everyday Floridians more than state Sen. Jeff Brandes.

The St. Petersburg Republican’s influence is likely to be felt for years to come, demonstrated by his involvement in some of the most critical issues facing Florida.

Among his legislative success in 2014, Brandes led the effort to upgrade the state’s transportation infrastructure, raise speed limits on highways, and co-sponsor SB 1030, the historic bill permitting the compassionate use of non-hallucinogenic marijuana known as “Charlotte’s Web,” which will bring relief to people, including children, who suffer from a rare form of epileptic seizures.

Brandes’ crowning achievement in 2014 — one that will affect thousands of homeowners statewide for years to come — was sponsoring SB 542, crafting a framework for the first-ever private flood insurance in Florida. This new marketplace will include practical consumer protections and flexibility for buyers to find affordable alternatives to the overburdened federal flood insurance program.

As flood insurance cemented his reputation as a staunch taxpayer watchdog, Brandes also led 2014 with a range of measures, to offer safeguards for seniors and other Floridians:

  • Charity Reform (SB 638) — Providing other enforcement tools and resources for state investigators to crack down on fraudulent charities, as well as increased transparency in charitable organizations operating in Florida.
  • Public Assistance Fraud (SB 308) – Making available stronger legal tools to the Chief Financial Officer’s Department of Financial Services to crack down on people who abuse public assistance.
  • Computer Crimes (SB 364) – A bill streamlining Florida’s criminal laws on computer hacking and digital invasion of privacy, protecting public utilities, medical equipment and transportation networks from hackers.
  • Guardianship (SB 634) – Brandes’ plan allows Clerks of Court to audit guardians suspected of abusing the persons under their care, and removing bad actors from guardian roles.

However, Brandes’ foremost priority has been transportation. Throughout the session, he pressed for smart, common sense government regulations, as well as promoting an environment that fosters both public and private investment in transportation in the Sunshine State.

Chairing the Senate Transportation Committee, Brandes brought his inventive vision to the chamber, by spearheading proposals such as SB 1272, which provides for an optional digital driver’s license, making Florida the first state in the country to pursue this technology. He also sponsored SB 696, to help needy families seeking government identification cards.

Florida motorists will also be able to get the their destinations a little quicker, thanks to Brandes’ SB 392, which allows the Florida Department of Transportation to increase the speed limit by 5 miles per hour on select state highways, up to as much as 75 miles per hour.

Jeff Brandes’ 2014 legislative successes proves he knows how to get things done, and Florida citizens — both now and for future generations — will be better for it.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.