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Meet Florida's New Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez

Jeanette Nuñez is Florida's new lieutenant governor and the highest ranking Latina in the political history of the state.
Alejandra Martinez
Jeanette Nuñez is Florida's new lieutenant governor and the highest ranking Latina in the political history of the state.

Florida has elected the highest ranking Latina in the state's political history. State Representative Jeanette Nuñez will be the Lieutenant Governor alongside Republican congressman Ron DeSantis, the new Governor-elect.

Nuñez is the current Speaker Pro Tempore of the Florida House of Representatives. During her time as a state representative, she advocated for conservative tax policy to attract small businesses. She also took unique stances on issues like immigration, sponsoring a bill that would offer undocumented students in-state college tuition.

With the DeSantis campaign, Nuñez focused on measures to continue to grow the economy and battle algal bloom problems plaguing Florida coastlines. She joined Sundial to talk about the top priorities for her administration as it transitions into office: school safety, climate change and immigration.

WLRN:  Do you have confidence that election machine problems will be fixed by the 2020 election and that we're going to be ready?

NUÑEZ: I think from Broward's perspective and possibly Palm Beach there certainly needs to be a change in leadership. Obviously Brenda Snipes has indicated she's going to resign; too little too late in my book. But I do believe that the next person that takes over those potentially hot spot areas, those problem counties, really have a tremendous responsibility to clean house because it's not just one person's problem.

I believe Broward County and perhaps Palm Beach County have systemic problems. They have problems throughout the organization and the next person that takes over in Broward really needs to look at the operation, really needs to look at what is it that's gone wrong so consistently, election cycle after election cycle. I believe that the legislature has a desire to ensure that the integrity of the votes are preserved for the next election and beyond.

A recent climate change report says by the end of the century the U.S. could lose 10-percent of its GDP. Scientists have warned of increased weather events. It will likely mean more hurricanes, flooding in South Florida. Do you believe the consensus of scientists who say that human beings have a massive impact on our climate?

I think what's important to realize is that we need to do something. We need to make sure that we are looking at it from a global perspective, but I haven't had a chance to review the report. I will in the coming days, but I'll tell you ... at the state level we were committed and Ron is committed to making sure that we're addressing environmental issues that are specific here to Florida. And I know that he's been very vocal on it. And so he wants to make sure that he's appointing the best, most qualified individuals that have accurate information, that have the science background, that have the knowledge and know how to address issues that are important for us here.

The other big issue in the news is immigration. You've had some interesting stances on immigration, which is generally under the purview of the federal government. For instance, as a state representative you put forward a bill to give undocumented students in-state tuition at Florida colleges. Where do you and Governor-elect DeSantis stand on the issue of services for undocumented immigrants?

The governor said on the campaign trail ... as it relates to undocumented individuals that commited crimes, he wants to make sure that they are deported as quickly as they are released. That's been his focus from a state perspective. As it relates to services, when undocumented individuals get K-12 they receive educational services... there's really not a role for the state to play with regard to services of the undocumented.

On those two fronts, what was your intention when you were first working on the bill?

I sponsored the bill. The bill was supported by a majority of individuals in both the House and the Senate. What we were hoping to do is to provide an opportunity. We, the state, spent over $90,000 educating kids in the K-12 system. So that's a lot of money that has been poured into students from every walk of life.

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Alejandra Martinez is the associate producer for WLRN&rsquo's Sundial. Her love for radio started at her mother’s beauty shop where she noticed that stories are all around her - important stories to tell.
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