TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — The hallways, stairwells and elevators at the Florida State Capitol were packed on Tuesday with friends and family of newly elected legislators, staff members, reporters and a large group of pro-life protesters. The chanting activists disrupted what was otherwise a day of applause and ceremonial procedures as the freshmen legislators were sworn in and house leaders laid out their respective agendas.
When speaking with reporters after the session, House Speaker Paul Renner addressed the problem of expensive insurance rates.
“I heard the story of one gentleman who owns an insurer that does business in 49 of the 50 states, operates and is located here but doesn’t do business in Florida,” Renner said. “That is not a good sign for the climate that we have in Florida.”
Renner promised that the legislature would “look at the kitchen sink of options,” in order to help create “stability and capacity in the market.”
Renner cautioned those looking for a quick fix, pointing out that it could take a few years before Floridians can see significant progress.
“I do believe we will see some downward pressure on rates, but don’t expect it overnight.”
In first remarks as Senate President, Passidomo acknowledged that Florida’s influx of new residents relocating from other states, while an overall positive sign, has increased the cost of housing. When speaking with reporters she described her “live local” plan.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we repurposed some of those strip centers that are next to office buildings, hospitals, etcetera, so that people can walk to work.”
Passidomo also suggested expanding one-story grocery stores.
“Wouldn’t it be great if they would lease their air rights to a developer who could build apartments over the grocery store,” she said. “Bottom line is we have to get creative, which government is not really good at.”
The Florida Standard asked Passidomo about the possibility of the legislature tackling transgender issues.
“I know that that’s something that members have had conversations about,” she said. “I know the governor is very concerned about it, particularly in sports. I do agree with him in that regard.”
Passidomo did not hesitate to speak against invasive surgeries for gender confused minors, such as those that remove the penis, breasts or uterus.
“That’s terrible. It really is. I had a staff member say ‘I think that’s child abuse,’” she said. “If you’re over 18, that’s your life, but if you’re a child, I have a real problem with that and I assume that something will come up.”
WORKING ACROSS THE AISLE
After Speaker Renner promised to have “robust debate,” Democrat Rep. Anna Eskamani let out a loud cackle – before quickly apologizing. Rep. Eskamani could be seen looking at her phone during much of Renner’s speech.
Renner continued: “I’m confident that all members will exhibit the civility and mutual respect our constituents deserve – and we will tolerate nothing less.”
Passidomo made similar concessions, saying: “I assure you we are going to listen to each other’s concerns and incorporate suggestions to make every bill better.”
She also acknowledged the elephant in the room, namely that Floridians were seeing red on Election Day.
“At the end of the day, we each have a responsibility to the voters who elected us, and those voters overwhelmingly support the conservative agenda of fiscal responsibility, protecting parents’ rights, honoring the dignity of work, and expanding education opportunities for our students,” Passidomo added. “That will drive our work for the next two years.”