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Matt Caldwell, Carlos Lopez-Cantera Make the Grade But Too Many Turkeys in Tallahassee

March 1, 2016 - 4:30pm

Welcome to The Dean’s List — an Ed Dean-style look at who Florida’s political achievers were (and weren’t) in the last seven days. What you see here is strictly my opinion, not necessarily the editor’s or the rest of the staff at Sunshine State News.

Who Made The List

Florida Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres. Sooner or later, Florida’s state pension fund will need to be addressed. This Lee County Republican wants it done sooner rather than later. Caldwell’s bill, which passed the House, would put new state government employees into a 401 (k) plan if they chose not to invest into the traditional pension plan after eight months. Caldwell’s bill would limit the amount government workers can put into the state’s $180 billion retirement fund. The Florida AFL-CIO opposed the bill, claiming a 401 (k) plan could damage the state pension fund because fewer employees would pay into it. Despite the rhetoric from big labor, Caldwell’s bill gives new state employees a choice on how they want to plan their retirements. 

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. It’s still early in the U.S. Senate race but the lieutenant governor had a good few weeks. Lopez-Cantera can showcase Florida’s economic gains, including record high tourism in 2015, while avoiding some of the jousting in Tallahassee over the budget and tax cuts. While some in the Republican field have endorsed term limits, Lopez-Cantera was the first candidate to support self-imposed term limits on himself, vowing to stay only two terms in the Senate if elected. Lopez-Cantera has also said he would back Donald Trump if he’s the Republican nominee, but that’s not his top choice for the nomination. Not a bad few weeks, even as the primary field grows more crowded and businessman Carlos Beruff entered the race. 

Florida Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, and Florida Rep. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills. These legislators sponsored a bill allowing almost 1.4 million Floridians who own a concealed weapons permit to use that ID for voting. The bill passed both chambers without opposition. Considering how many other government IDs are used at the polls, it was an easy call. 

Who Did Not Make the List 

Gov. Rick Scott’s Education Budget. The Republican Legislature is holding firm and not giving the green light to Scott’s proposed education spending plan. Scott’s education budget calls for more than $500 in additional spending. But 90 percent of the new spending is coming from the local school districts, which means property owners and businesses will end up getting left with the bill. Instead of mandating more spending, Tallahassee needs to find ways to cut waste and ensure more money stays in local school districts. 

The Florida League of Women Voters. Nobody in Tallahassee seems to have a clue dealing with land conservation and Amendment 1 money. The state DEP wants to open up more state lands for public use and to bring in tourism. Not a bad idea since using small sections of parks for hunting and camping would bring in more revenue to the state.  But all of this has hit a road block due to environmentalists and other activist groups, including the Florida League of Women Voters. Opponents insist they will continue to fight against any Republican effort, claiming Tallahassee wants to push logging, cattle grazing, hunting and making golf courses on state lands. Once again, the LWF is jumping into a matter that has little to do with its original intent and going to bat for the Democratic Party. 
 
Turkey Projects. While politicians brag during campaign season about the need to cut wasteful spending, their actions speak differently.  In 2015, House Republican Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa, asked for $1 million for the Tampa Theater. It was vetoed. Now she wants $2 million. Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, wants $500,000 for an interactive exhibit showing the impact of Cuban-Americans in Florida. Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, wants $100,000 for a Leon County works expo aimed at high school students promoting career and training opportunities. Rep. Keith Perry R-Gainesville wants $500,000 for music education programs. Part of the money will go to University of Florida to research the effectiveness music education has on student achievement. As the budget battle continues, there’s a $1 billion difference between the House and Senate spending plans. Eliminating turkeys would certainly help close the gap.

Ed Dean, a senior editor with Sunshine State News whose talk show can be heard on radio stations in Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Daytona Beach, Orlando, the Space Coast, the Treasure Coast and South Florida from West Palm Beach to Miami. It can also be heard in parts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. You can reach at ed@sunshinestatenews.com. Follow him on Twitter: @eddeanradio.

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