The cast of characters changes every year in Tallahassee, but the eyes narrow on a select few politicians each legislative session.
Here’s a look at who to watch during the 2018 legislative session:
Gov. Rick Scott
The governor comes into each legislative session with his own ideas about how the Sunshine State should run its ship. 2018 brings a new slew of ideas for Scott -- and this year will be an important one for the governor to seal his legacy before leaving office next year.
In November, Scott unveiled an $87.4 billion budget plan, the largest since he took office in 2011.
Among Scott’s top priorities: a record $12 billion investment in the state’s education system, the “highest ever” in Florida history. The increase in state funding would be a jump of nearly 37 percent for Florida’s K-12 public schools since Scott first took office, with over $21.4 billion going towards Florida’s public schools. All in all, Scott’s funding numbers equate to around $7,500 per student, an increase of around $200 per student, a record for per-pupil spending. Scott is also pitching a $220 million investment for Florida environmental programs.
Scott might feel heat from lawmakers who have said there’s a shortfall in the budget due to Hurricane Irma recovery, but it’s likely he will make a strong push for his priorities to tuck a successful year under his belt before possibly declaring a run for U.S. Senate this year.
Last year was somewhat of a flop for Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, whose top priority -- a bill to push for extra funding for Florida’s higher education system -- was axed by Gov. Scott. Negron was still able to secure increased funding for state universities, but not through his main bill.
Negron did see a glimpse of success in Everglades restoration when one of his other top supported pieces of legislation, SB 10, passed and was signed into law last summer.
A new year means new opportunities for Negron, who is working closely with his successor, Sen. Bill Galvano, to prioritize higher education this year.
It’s often said the incoming Senate President is actually a more powerful figure than the Senate President himself, and Galvano has spent years waiting in the wings for his time to shine.
The signs already point to the beginnings of a successful session for the Bradenton Republican, who takes the reins of the Florida Senate next year. Galvano’s main priority, permanently expanding Bright Futures Scholarships, has already been approved by three Senate committees and is ready to be voted on by lawmakers when they come to Tallahassee next week.
Galvano also leads the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which will be a critical player in electing GOP senators to Tallahassee this year.
Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, saw a twist of fate late last year when he was tapped to lead the Senate Appropriations Committee in place of former Sen. Jack Latvala, who was accused by seven different women of sexual misconduct and harassment.
Bradley, who has served in the Florida Senate since 2012, is prioritizing money for land acquisition for Florida Forever this year, pitching a $100 million investment in the program in this year’s annual budget.
Annette Taddeo is a newcomer in the Florida Legislature. Her victory over former Rep. Jose Felix Diaz for the Senate District 40 seat last summer showed naysayers she had what it took to get to Tallahassee, and now she’s ready to show them why she deserves to stay.
Taddeo is backing a few bills this session, including a measure to require warning labels on prescription opioids. Will Taddeo hit the ground running or fade into the background? All eyes are on her to show her stripes for the next 60 days.
Florida House of Representatives
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, is often considered as one of the most calculated figures in the Florida Capitol.
2018 is the last year of Corcoran’s reign in the Florida House, and all signs are pointing to a run for governor later this year. With the governor’s mansion in mind, Corcoran has been vocal in his support for traditionally conservative issues -- like banning sanctuary cities -- to help seal his legacy in Florida politics before voters head to the polls.
Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva came into office during an off-year and has spent years making his mark in Tallahassee.
Oliva works hand-in-hand with Speaker Corcoran, often pulling strings behind the scenes to influence lawmakers to pass legislation.
This year, Oliva said he would prioritize eliminating top-down government policies while supporting issues on Corcoran’s to-do list.
It’s not just anyone who gets to sponsor the House Speaker’s top legislative priorities -- this year, one of those honors goes to Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, who is sponsoring the “Hope Scholarship” bill in the House.
Students who are victims of bullying, violence or abuse could get a shot at attending a new school as part of a scholarship program pushed by Florida House GOP members during this year’s upcoming legislative session.
The new program would give funding to Florida students reporting incidents of violence, allowing them to transfer to public or private schools and the bill has already been heralded as a top priority for House Speaker Corcoran.