Welcome to January 2020 — the start of another 60-day Legislative Session and the commencement of what I fully expect to be the single wildest presidential election cycle of my lifetime (and I’ve been around for a lot of them).
As policymakers from every corner of Florida arrive in Tallahassee to debate the pressing issues of the day, pass a balanced budget, and cast hundreds of votes that will impact more than 21 million people in the single biggest growth state in the country, I am hopeful.
I possess optimism and hope that the trajectory of the Sunshine State continues to be in the direction of liberty, freedom and opportunity. We have discovered something truly unique — that if politicians limit their own influence over markets, prosperity ensues.
We have chosen wisely over the past 20-plus years in embracing free markets, limited government, and a healthy climate for small businesses. As a result, Florida nets more in income and population migration than any other state.
In 2018, it was more than $16 billion in income migration — that is something we should celebrate.
Nevertheless, as our economy continues to evolve and diversify, the journey will never end. It is why I know our work at The James Madison Institute is more important and vital now than ever.
If you were to have asked me in 1999 what I thought the salient issues of the 21st century would be, I don’t think I ever would have thought of something like blockchain, doctor visits by iPad, or drone deliveries.
New innovations, new ideas, and new challenges continue to emerge. But again I am truly hopeful — we get it right far more often than most, and if there is a quality that I am most proud of and consistently trumpet as I speak around the country, it is that regardless of party, regardless of political philosophy, regardless of background, our elected leaders are passionate about our state, principled about doing what they feel is right for those they represent, and overall a great bunch of human beings.
As we unveiled JMI’s “20 for ’20” policy priorities for Florida in December, a consistent theme came to mind in our team — that we are fortunate to be able to promote a positive agenda for opportunity for Florida, a set of ideas that will not only continue to create the greatest amount of prosperity for Floridians, but also one that can serve as a road map for other states in their journey.
I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with counterparts from Alaska to Maine and Arizona to Georgia. They consistently look at Florida in envy.
Our agenda for opportunity places our principles of freedom and liberty as the tip of the spear in fighting for the prosperity of all Floridians. As the 2020 session starts, it is my privilege to offer up these five pillars of policy:
2019 saw tremendous strides in addressing the challenges we face in ensuring Floridians have access to quality health care. Repealing CON laws, embracing telemedicine, and expanding the scope of direct health care arrangements were pivotal to moving Florida in the right direction. In 2020, it is our hope that this momentum continues in allowing practitioners to practice at the highest level of their training, addressing the root causes of drug pricing and arbitrage by Pharmacy Benefit Managers, and ensuring that our safety net meets the needs of our most vulnerable.
Florida embraced the principles of school choice years ago, and we continue to see the benefits in real-time. Hundreds of thousands of parents from every corner of the state can sleep better at night, knowing that their child is no longer resigned to a failure factory because of the ZIP code in which they reside. So long as JMI exists, we will advocate for those who are trapped in similar circumstances. The history of our organization began 33 years ago, preaching the power of choice in education. That mission continues in 2020 and beyond.
One of the biggest areas for bold reform is Florida’s criminal justice system. When Republicans and Democrats in the legislature agree with declarations from the administration that our correctional system is in crisis, it is notable. We will continue to shed light on the success of the federal government in passing comprehensive criminal justice reform and support efforts to address our state’s antiquated mandatory minimum laws and pathways for those incarcerated seeking to get career training.
Technology and Innovation
The innovation economy isn’t going away, and we will continue to advance policy solutions that promote free enterprise and safeguard Floridians. From protecting our waterways and restoring the Everglades, to defending property owner’s rights to rent spare rooms and embracing market-based strategies to deploy broadband, we look forward to working with and educating policymakers on the power of innovation to address the challenges ahead.
At the end of the day, we achieve prosperity through the power and dignity of work. That power is diminished with unnecessary requirements to obtain permission slips from the government to get a job. If there is an area of economic policy in which Florida continues to lag behind other states, it is in the weight of meaningless government requirements for many occupations. We are thankful this is a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis and hope to see this policy reform finally achieved in 2020.
In policy, a familiar phrase often applies — it may be simple, but it sure ain’t easy.
I have the luxury of being able to develop and articulate policy ideas without having to directly package them, build consensus around them, and then defend them to constituents.
Otto von Bismark was correct when he said the two things best not seen made are sausage and laws. So, as the roller coaster winds its way over the course of the next couple of months, and as tensions over policy debates, and budget allocations, and the impending election threaten to cloud emotions and sow divisiveness, I will remain hopeful for our future.
We should debate enthusiastically and disagree vigorously. I firmly believe that our agenda is one that will create the best possible Florida for all, but I don’t expect all to agree. So, let the battle of ideas commence. Let us take hold of our best arguments and articulate them as persuasively as we can and then take the results back to the voters of the Sunshine State.
I’m going to conclude with a paraphrase of a hero of mine in the policy arena, Arthur Brooks … I may not vote for you, but I will love you.
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.