By: Robert McClure
May 14, 2019
The 2019 Legislative session just came to a close, and what a difference a year makes! It has been an eventful six months.
Coming off the heels of a 2018 election that saw the Sunshine State buck the “Blue Wave,” Floridians elected Ron DeSantis to succeed Rick Scott, and then elected Rick Scott to replace Bill Nelson. While a couple of our congressional districts flipped blue, our statewide trajectory continued to trend in a conservative direction.
The million-dollar question, however, was how the new administration would work in collaboration with the Legislature. How would the new governor assert his priorities? How would the new speaker and senate president comport their agendas with that of the governor? With a new attorney general and agriculture commissioner, would there be substantial strategy changes in our approach to those arenas? So much was left to be answered between January and March.
As we survey the landscape post-2019 session, Floridians should be optimistic about the future. Is there more work to be done? Always. Yet in an age in which the “outrage industrial complex” looks for every opportunity to leverage our differences and pit decent people against one another, I see something different.
I recently read the newest book from my friend Arthur Brooks, “Love Your Enemies.” The book struck several great chords that were on display over the last 60 days. We don’t need to disagree less, he says. We need to disagree better. We don’t need more civility. We need more love. These poignant thoughts are so necessary today.
And while I know our media, and many in the political culture, seek to divide and sow animosity, we are fortunate to see something different here in Florida. I watched as a new crop of legislators arrived – 44 new House members alone. Our Legislature, our governor, our cabinet members and our agency heads came together around a common set of goals, debated vigorously, and accomplished a great deal.
Just a few of the issue successes we have long engaged in at the James Madison Institute include:
- School Choice: The Legislature passed a major expansion of school choice via the Family Empowerment Scholarship program. Despite teacher union objections, this gives parents and grandparents more choices for their children and grandchildren.
- Health Care: Anti-competitive Certificate of Need laws, which stifled competition and choice, are now a thing of the past. Health care access and quality will improve because there will be more competition and costs will come down.
- Homeowner Protection: Nefarious actors and fraudulent assignment of benefits insurance claims will finally be reined in through tort reform. That is a win for customers and taxpayers.
- Innovation: Florida will continue to be a leader in pro-technology policy. Think Uber, VRBO, driverless cars and drones.
- Criminal Justice: We have begun to address persistent challenges in our criminal justice system through conservative reforms that protect public safety, reduce recidivism and better steward taxpayer funds.
In a time when many speculate as to whether our children will inherit a better future, we have much to be optimistic about in the Sunshine State. Eternal vigilance is always critical. Yet once again the state of Florida — a bellwether for the entire country — is leading the way.
Dr. J. Robert McClure III is president and CEO of the James Madison Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in Tallahassee devoted to research and education on public policy issues.