After passage of a tax package and budget that snubs Gov. Rick Scott, Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner said Friday afternoon lawmakers had “declared their independence” from an overbearing executive branch.
“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 leaving the Legislature because of term limits after 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,” Joyner said. “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 spots 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 Fort Lauderdale Sen. Chris Smith advanced compromise language requiring police to create policies to implement the use of body cameras, both Democratic priorities.
Others such as Palm Beach Rep. Kevin Rader indicated legislative and budget leadership was more accommodating than usual this Session, a year when state accounts were unusually flush. Some minority caucus members likely scored more money for their districts than they expected.
Otherwise, legislative Democrats had little to brag about in 2016, though redistricting may buoy their fortunes in November.
Scott still holds the veto pen, which observers expect he’ll be more than likely to wield this spring.