Earlier this month, hundreds of laws enacted by the Florida Legislature went into effect. More notable than the laws that took effect were the laws that did not: policies championed by liberal special interests working hand in hand with some Republican members of the Florida Senate.
These left-wing policies were pushed in Florida’s upper chamber despite Senate President Joe Negron saying, “You are going to see very conservative proposals come out of the Senate.”
In the ensuing months since this comment was made, the “conservative” Florida Senate pursued a repeal of the insurance premium tax credit, attempted to raise taxes, proposed legislation that eroded property rights by calling for the purchase of private farmland that was not for sale through government condemnation, and pushed for a prejudgement interest bill that would have cost businesses millions in payments from frivolous lawsuits.
Eliminating the premium tax credit currently offered to Floridians would have hit families hard in the pocketbook, forcing the cost of insurance to rise to the tune of almost $300 million statewide. The plan was opposed by conservatives in the Florida House and fortunately, the bill died in the Senate.
Following the release of Senate Bill 10 to address issues with Lake Okeechobee, which was Sen. Negron’s top priority, the conservative James Madison Institute released a study showing the plan would significantly erode property rights and cost Florida as many as 4,100 farming jobs. When it became clear that Senate Bill 10 was a job killer and relied heavily on bonding, the bill was amended to use land currently owned by the state. This was a significant victory for defenders of property rights and a strong rebuke of the agenda of radical environmental activists. These activists spend millions annually attacking farmers and make them the scapegoat of nearly every problem involving water in Florida. Their radical beliefs have no place in a Republican agenda, let alone in the Republican-led Florida Senate.
In addition to the Senate’s crusade against property rights, it also dabbled in trial lawyer politics by pursuing a bill known as prejudgement interest. This bill would have cost Florida businesses millions by allowing Florida judges to award damages before a judgement is rendered. This was a top priority of the Florida trial bar and apparently also Joe Negron. It’s utterly disappointing that someone who calls himself a “conservative” not only allowed the legislation to be brought to the floor, but he also considered it a top priority.
Thankfully, the conservatives in the Florida House prevailed in passing a $25,000 increase in the homestead exemption, despite objections from moderate and liberal senators, including some Republicans.
Prior to approving an increase in the homestead exemption, the liberal wing of the Florida Senate Republican caucus attempted to not buy back the Required Local Effort (RLE), which would have resulted in a half billion-dollar property tax increase. Additionally, during budget negotiations, the Florida Senate attempted to raise property taxes on new construction by $143 million to pay for member projects.
Thankfully, all of these liberal proposals were defeated. It’s disappointing that a Republican-controlled chamber would spend so much time pursuing the priorities of the left, when the time should have been spent cutting government red tape, shrinking government, and limiting the influence of activist judges.
Republicans in the Florida Legislature have an opportunity to expand their majorities by adopting policies that uphold the principles of smaller government, lower taxation, and individual rights. Despite the Florida Senate’s resistance to these ideals, I am optimistic that we can continue to demonstrate the strength of conservative governance when members return to Tallahassee next fall.
Everett Wilkinson is an original founder of the Florida Tea Party. He resides in Martin County and is one of Joe Negron’s constituents.