For a second straight Legislative session, a Clay County Republican will be key to the budget process.
Just as Sen. Rob Bradley chaired Senate Appropriations in 2018, chairing the powerful House Appropriations Committee is state Republican Rep. Travis Cummings of Orange Park.
Cummings replaces former House budget chair Carlos Trujillo, who left the Legislature after being appointed Ambassador to the Organization of American States.
Like incoming Speaker Jose Oliva, a Republican from Hialeah, Cummings was an early supporter of presumed Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis.
For DeSantis loyalists and Northeast Florida partisans both, the Cummings appointment is good news.
He told Florida Politics Friday that he was “excited and fortunate” to be chosen, noting that while Northeast Florida is “well-positioned,” he has a holistic view regarding money for school safety and the environment in what otherwise will be a “pretty tight budget year.”
One focus will be recovery from this year’s devastating Hurricane Michael.
“The Panhandle continues to suffer,” Cummings noted. And after three straight years of catastrophic storms, the state will have to further refine plans regarding tropical weather emergencies.
Cummings, entering year seven in the House, also will look for ways to increase school safety, a process began in earnest last year with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act.
Environmental issues, a campaign focus of DeSantis, will also come to the fore … a necessity in the era of red tide.
Member projects will likely need to be in these areas, said Cummings, to have a “strong chance of being funded.”
After six years of dealing with the Scott administration, Cummings will be dealing with a new Republican leadership.
He is encouraged by the strong DeSantis transition chairs, which include former House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Matt Gaetz, former Sen. George LeMieux, and former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings.
Cummings, like many observers, knows that while there will be functional continuity with the Scott administration, changes will happen as well.
The Orange Park Republican also recognizes the reality of a “brutal campaign” won by a “small margin.”
“Surround yourself with good people … folks you can trust with the same goals,” Cummings said. “Work with the Legislature to build rapport.”
That process, Cummings added, seemed well underway given that Oliva and Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano both are aligned with the Governor already. (Though Galvano hasn’t announced committee chairs yet, regional observers hope Bradley gets a return stint with the gavel, a move that would concentrate unprecedented power in Clay County)
While the realities of the Legislative session and competing interests can create “conflict at times,” Cummings expects a “collegial relationship” to prevail between the executive and legislative branches should DeSantis, as current tallies suggest, be Florida’s next Governor.