Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2022 Legislative Session:
The Last 24
The largest budget in state history is now on members’ desks, kicking off the 72-hour cooling-off period before lawmakers can vote on it and bring the 2022 Legislative Session to a close. The record-setting $112 billion spending plan includes $43 billion in general revenue — a full $8 billion more than the 2021-22 budget — that has flowed to the state amid a rebounding economy. The 2022-23 budget also includes $37 billion in federal cash, $3.5 billion of which comes from pandemic relief funds. After the finished product was delivered, Senate leaders touted some highlights, including an across-the-board pay raise for state employees, more than $8,000 in per-pupil funding for schools and sales tax holidays for diapers, disaster preparedness, school supplies and gas. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Adios, Commish. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced he plans to step down later this spring.
Pasco pastime. The Legislature sprinkled $35 million to build a new spring training home for the Tampa Bay Rays in Pasco County.
Quote of the Day
“It can take only one parent who would decide that they don’t want that story being told. And that will start the process of banning this book across the state. I hear over and over about parental rights. A parent should not have that right. Parents should not have the right to erase history.”
— Sen. Randolph Bracy, on a bill allowing parents to challenge educational materials in public schools.
Bill Day’s Latest
Last month, Richard McCullough was formally inaugurated as Florida State University’s 16th president. He’s been in the position since Aug. 16, 2021.
During his inauguration speech, he said he hopes to lift FSU into the Top 15 of the public university rankings and chase the Top 10 during his tenure.
Florida Politics spoke with President McCullough about why he decided to take the job and his goals for FSU
Q: What made you decide to take the job last year? What qualities of Florida State University spoke to you?
McCullough: I always wanted to be a president at a university where I could have an impact on the success of the students, drive world-changing research and innovation, and serve the surrounding community. I was very fortunate to be chosen to lead Florida State University, where I can make a difference. I was also struck by the powerful love for FSU and the family atmosphere of the university and its competitive spirit. I was also deeply impressed by FSU’s rise in the rankings from No. 43 to No. 19 in just a few years. Of course, I knew of FSU’s national reputation for excellence in both the arts, humanities, and the sciences, especially in the physical sciences where FSU has been home to several Nobel Prize winners. And of course, I was also aware of FSU’s storied tradition of championship athletics and have been very excited to be one of FSU’s biggest fans. I also strongly believe in the role of public universities as engines of social mobility. As a product of a community college and public university, I wanted to be a part of that mission. At FSU, 26% of our undergraduate students are the first in their families to go to college and nearly 20% of our students began their higher education at a community college.
Q: What are your primary goals during your first few years as FSU president?
McCullough: My overarching goal is to work toward making Florida State University the best university that it can be. As we make those improvements, we will naturally rise in the national rankings. I am currently building and developing a strong leadership team with a focus on improving organizational structure in addition to implementing practices that drive efficiency and effectiveness within the following areas:
— Investing in academic excellence to drive greater student success.
— Enhancing the university’s research profile while providing faculty support and increasing research funding.
— Expanding overall diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives to become a community leader fully committed to inclusive excellence.
— Creating a supportive entrepreneurial culture at the university.
— Continuing to promote excellence in our university athletics programs through strategic planning, financial management and increased funding.
— Establishing and cultivating relationships with elected and appointed governmental officials at the federal, state, and local levels.
— Improving fundraising efforts to increase the number of gifts to support the university and improving recognition of the university’s successes by utilizing targeted and effective marketing strategies to elevate the university’s image.
— Building upon FSU’s history of productivity and continue to be recognized as being among the most efficient universities.
Q: Are there any bills or legislation that is particularly catching your eye this Session? Anything you think will have a positive impact on your university?
McCullough: I am thankful for the continued support for FSU and the State University System from the Legislature and the Governor. It’s encouraging to see that the Legislature has funded initiatives that continue to propel our institutions forward. These dollars will allow FSU to continue to grow our leading-edge research capabilities and make strategic investments to maintain our upward trajectory in the national rankings.
What’s the first thing non-Floridians think of when they think of Florida? For some it’s beaches, for others it’s oranges, but for most it’s Disney.
Walt Disney World is not only the world’s largest theme park, it’s the world’s most visited one. Before the pandemic, it was averaging nearly 21 million visitors a year. Even at the height of lockdowns in 2020, the 7 million people walked through the turnstiles.
Surely, Florida would not be Florida if Walt Disney didn’t have the imagination to look at 27,000 acres of swampland and envision the happiest place on earth.
It’s been 50 years since Walt Disney World welcomed its first guests, and the company has grown to become not only one of the largest media companies in the world, but one of the largest lobbying forces in the Florida Capitol.
It has a stake in many issues, one being VISIT FLORIDA. The tourism marketing arm was scheduled to sunset next year, but Disney and other major tourist draws were successful in convincing lawmakers to pass a bill extending its authorization through 2028.
The company has also come under the spotlight for its role — or lack of a role — when the Legislature OK’d a controversial bill regulating discussions on LGBTQ issues in public schools. The sleeping giant has since vowed to work against the bill, with CEO Bob Chapek holding a one-on-one with the Governor to discuss the issue.
When Chapek isn’t in the Capitol, he relies on an extensive team of lobbyists to ensure the company’s interests are at the top of lawmakers’ minds.
Their roster includes Paul Bradshaw, Oscar Anderson, David Browning, Rachel Cone, Mercer Fearington, Chris Dudley, Nicole Kelly, James McFaddin, Sydney Ridley and Clark Smith of The Southern Group; Dean Cannon, Larry Cretul, Katie Flury, Kim McDougal, Kirk Pepper and Joseph Salzverg of GrayRobinson; Warren Husband, James Daughton, Douglas Bell, Leslie Dughi, Allison Liby-Schoonover, Aimee Lyon, Andrew Palmer and Karl Rasmussen of Metz Husband & Daughton; French Brown of Dean Mead; David Childs, Gary Hunter and Eileen Stuart of The Vogel Group; Steve Schale, Stephen Shiver and Jeff Woodburn of The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners; and Katie Webb and Amanda Fraser of Colodny Fass.
The Next 24
— The Senate will hold a floor Session at 10 a.m.
— The House will hold a floor Session at 10:30 a.m.