This week on Florida Matters, we sat down with local political reporters to look at the2020 Florida Legislature and discuss some of the most pressing issues facing our state.
Florida Matters host Robin Sussingham spoke with longtime political journalist William March and Lynn Hatter, news director at WFSU, a Florida Public Media partner station, to preview the upcoming session.
Hatter told Sussingham that the issue of raising teacher pay is one of the most crucial facing legislators.
“Governor Ron DeSantis wants a pretty hefty teacher pay raise. He wants to boost salaries to about $47,500,” Hatter said. “To tell you how big that is here in the Panhandle: Gaston County has one of the lowest starting salaries at around $33,000. So you're talking about a lot of money.”
“In addition to that, he also wants another $300 million for a bonus program. You're talking when all of this is said and done, about a billion-dollar boost into K-12.”
In addition to teacher pay, other issues topping the legislature’s agenda include education spending, abortions, gun-carry laws and prison reform.
Sussingham asked March to discuss a few of the issues with Florida’s prison system, including State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, pushing hard for criminal justice reform.
”Well, what's happened is that the Secretary of the Department of Corrections recently made a report to the legislature to the effect that the state's prison system essentially is in crisis because of low pay staff turnover,” March said, ”the kind of budgetary problems that have resulted in thousands and thousands of brand new and experienced guards on duty. Staying being forced to work 12-hour shifts mandatory overtime.”
March added that Brandes fears these issues could “lead to major violence within the Florida prisons.”