Joe Henderson

Joe Henderson has worked in Florida newspapers for more than 40 years.

Hey, I hear you. The start of the 2020 Legislative Session is only starting and many folks might want to hide under the covers for the next 60 days.

After all, a person can become jaded covering the machinations of the Florida Legislature. We know the themes so well we can recite them in our sleep.

Repeat after me: Keeping taxes low is an annual priority.

Lawmakers love to cut regulations, protect the Second Amendment, and pour more money into charter schools. Yep.

Been there, done that. And the 2020 Legislative Session didn’t get off to a promising start.

Start with vaccinations.

The Seattle public school district recently ordered that unless student immunization records are current, they won’t be allowed to return to class. Praise be!

Alas, bills to strengthen Florida’s public school vaccination compliance died last fall when so-called anti-vaccination activists raised a stink.

There are rumors the vaccination push could come up again, though, and we can only hope it does. The right to protect kids from measles should take priority over some parents who saw on the internet that the vaccine causes autism.

But if not, don’t completely surrender hope.

Sifting through the myriad number of proposals various committees will consider, we find some things outside the box of conventional thinking. Whether any or all of these ideas become law is another issue, but we can dream as baseball fans do on Opening Day.

I want popcorn to watch the hearings in the Infrastructure and Security Committee about factors that drive mass gun violence. The committee is led by Sen. Tom Lee.

Senate President Bill Galvano is behind the push to explore causes, such as mental illness. They will debate what kind of commonsense reforms won’t cause NRA members to throw up in their mouths.

There also will be a debate about expanded background checks (duh!). There will be a push to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines (spoiler alert: it won’t pass).

But, bless ‘em, the effort will give Floridians who are paying attention a fresh roll call on NRA toadies.

Ah, but for me, the main event will be the push by Gov. Ron DeSantis to raise starting pay for school teachers to $47,500 a year. That’s about a $10,000 annual increase, and an estimated 100,000 teachers would be affected.

Two problems: DeSantis’ proposal, while well-meaning, could bring starting pay for beginning teachers nearly to the level of others who have been in the classroom much longer.

Some lawmakers are uneasy about that, especially GOP House Speaker Jose Oliva.

“My initial thought is one of gratitude for those who came before us and saw it fit to bind us and all future legislatures to a balanced budget,” he said in a statement last October when DeSantis unveiled his proposal.

In their spare time, lawmakers face issues on prison reform and felon voting rights restoration. The usual environmental issues before the Legislature have added urgency now because of climate change.

Psssst, it’s real.

DeSantis wants e-verify to become mandatory for state and private employers, and that isn’t universally popular.

Oh yeah, an election is coming. You may have heard that already.

The state has done a lot of talking about election security, but I’m not feeling it at this point. Not that Florida ever struggles to get elections right, of course.


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