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What Will Florida Politics Look Like In 2021?

On Florida Matters this week, we talk about what's potentially on the agenda for state politics this year.

State lawmakers won’t meet in session until March, but many in Tallahassee and Washington are worried about budget shortfalls amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Host Bradley George and Zac Anderson, political editor at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, have a wide-ranging conversation that touches on the new leaders of the state legislature as well as the amendments approved by voters in November.

Balancing the budget will be a big priority for the 2021 legislative session, beginning on March 2. And that could mean cuts to less popular programs that are typically for poor Floridians, Anderson said. That list could include affordable housing and Medicaid.

"They (state lawmakers) tend to cut programs that don't have as strong a constituency, don't have folks with as much influence. Things like Medicaid are probably ripe for being cut," Anderson said. "Education ... there's a lot of vocal proponents of strong education funding. So I think if there's anything that could be preserved or get minimal cuts, it's likely to be something like education."

The state's new top two lawmakers are both from the greater Tampa Bay region. But Anderson said that may not gain Tampa Bay any special "hometown love" from Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

"You saw, for example, outgoing Senate President Bill Galvano. He's from Manatee County and he did bring some money for road projects and other local projects in the Manatee and Sarasota area. Now, that was under a much better economic circumstances. I think it will be more difficult (now)," Anderson said.

But under this new leadership, Anderson said we may see the nixing of the controversial toll roads projects throughout the state. Simpson is a farmer from Pasco County and Anderson said that could have an effect on those projects.

"There's been discussion that Senate President William Simpson might not be as interested in funding some of these roads," he said. "So it's not clear that these are going to continue, and ... the fact that the budget is struggling and that these roads would be expensive could help environmentalists make their case that they should go away."

To hear more of the conversation, click "Listen" at the top of the page.

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