Broxson optimistic about budget, session
Since 2022 is a state and local election year, the Florida Legislature kicks off its regular session on January 11, rather than in March. We spoke with state Sen. Doug Broxson.
As with every year, lawmakers have a full plate awaiting them. The top priority, under state law, is passing a balanced budget for next fiscal year.
“We’re going into a good position; the estimating conference just came out with a report that we’re considerably ahead of our projections as far as revenue and the projections prior to that,” said Broxson. “We’re very optimistic.”
Broxson is a member of the Appropriations Committee.
“I’ve been through several budget cycles, and it’s just a matter of how generous we are in people’s projects,” he said. “Members always have projects that are important to their area; and this year we should be in a better position to help them meet those local needs through having excess money. So, I’m very optimistic about the budget.”
The other major issue to be tackled is redistricting, in accord with the figures from the Census. Broxson, the vice chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, says they’re ready to follow protocol and the law. But he adds there’s been less involvement of lawmakers than at any other time in Florida history.
“We’ve let staff and computers kind of draw the maps for us, to make sure that we did not end up in a lawsuit; but my understanding is we’re going to be sued whether the maps are right or wrong,” Broxson said. “We were hoping to get it out in early session, but it’s got to go through all of the traps and hopefully by the end of the session we’ll know what district we’re going to be serving in and are running for reelection in.”
A number of proposed bills have Broxson’s name attached to them, either as sponsor or a co-sponsor. One of his is the Infrastructure Project Funding Bill, Senate Bill 1162. Broxson says the funding is already there.
“We still have money left over from the American Rescue Plan, and we’re going to have some money coming in for infrastructure because of the recent actions of the Congress and the President’s signing,” he said. “Money will not be the big issue; infrastructure’s a big, big deal in Florida, primarily with dealing with our growth.”
The state Senate is expected to work with Gov. Ron DeSantis on a number of bills, including how to spend the money in the new budget. One particular issue is what to do with the reserve funding from the feds, related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He’s already made several statements about giving teacher bonuses, police bonuses; and I think you’ll find the legislature willing to do that,” Broxson said. “I think it’s going to be a by-product of some of the decisions that both the legislature and the governor has made as far as keeping the economy open, and people are coming to Florida and spending money.”
While many elected bodies around the country are embroiled in a war of words, actions and deeds, that doesn’t seem to be the case in the Florida legislature. Part of that could be both chambers have large GOP majorities, but Sen. Doug Broxson adds that they’re comfortable reaching across the aisle.
“Absolutely,” said Broxson. “If you look at the voting record, I think over 90% of the bills that are passed or almost 100% are [approved] across the aisle. And it’s just those few bills that historically have been related to social behavior, that we have controversy with.”
And of course, the Florida Senate joins the House in having precautions against COVID-19, with some pretty much identical to each other.
“The desks have been separated; they’re discouraging any close contact, and it’s optional whether you wear a mask,” said Broxson. “I don’t know of a senator that has not been vaccinated, and probably most of them have gotten a booster. I think we’re doing what we do in a free society — we’re trying to be responsible; at the same time, people make decisions on their own personal health.”
Besides the budget and redistricting, there are a number of controversial bills expected to be considered including restrictions on abortion, critical race theory, how elections are conducted, and immigration.