Gov. Scott's State of the State Address kicks off 2017 session

By Troy Kinsey, Digital Media Producers, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 07, 2017, 12:37 PM EST

Florida's lawmakers returned to the state capitol Tuesday as the 2017 legislative session began. 

The session started with Gov. Rick Scott's annual State of the State Address.

"Since I last stood here to address you, Florida has endured many heartbreaks," Scott said. "I have prayed for families around our state who have been impacted by tragedy, and my own heart has been broken for their losses.

"Our state has been rocked by the gruesome terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub, in Orlando. We endured two hurricanes, fought against the rapid spread of the Zika Virus, and were devastated by the deadly Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooting."

Scott called Florida a "state full of fighters" and spoke at length about last year's Pulse shooting. He recognized a number of officers and deputies who responded to the scene.

"Nothing could have prepared me for the horror we saw on June 12, 2016, when a terrorist inspired by ISIS stormed into Pulse and senselessly killed 49 innocent people," Scott said. "This was a terrorist attack and 49 brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and spouses were murdered."

"The days I spent in Orlando following the shooting will always be with me," he said.

Scott said he is fighting to cut taxes by $618 million to cut costs for small businesses, students, veterans, teachers and families.

"Our Fighting for Florida's Future tax cut package will boost our economy and encourage businesses of all sizes to create jobs and build opportunities for generations of Floridians," Scott said.

Democrats wasted little time Tuesday afternoon pouncing on Gov. Scott's speech.

“Rick Scott’s strategy of creating low-wage jobs to maximize corporate profits, while letting schools fall further behind, has failed Florida,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel in a Democratic response. “While Florida continues to suffer from an epidemic of senseless gun violence, Rick Scott and his Tallahassee Republican allies are seeking to put guns in schools and airports.

”As the seas continue to rise and increasing numbers of Floridians suffer the effects of climate change, Scott still has his head in the sand and refuses to even acknowledge the crisis. Floridians deserve better.” 

Meanwhile, lawmakers will have a long list of items they will be considering in the weeks ahead.

While approving a state budget is the only thing the Legislature is required to do each year, lawmakers will consider everything from expanding guns rights to implementing a medical marijuana amendment passed by voters.

The 60-day session could become bumpy at times. 

Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Scott are at odds over House plans to eliminate the state's economic development agency, Enterprise Florida.

"Hundreds of millions of dollars, of taxpayer dollars, is wasted on corporate welfare," Corcoran said. "Because it seems like we have forgotten what it is that we believe." 

Corcoran is expected to roll out a sweeping plan to eliminate Enterprise Florida and dramatically cut funding for the state's tourism promotion outfit, Visit Florida. 

"Since I last stood here to address you, Florida has endured many heartbreaks. I have prayed for families around our state who have been impacted by tragedy, and my own heart has been broken for their losses." - Gov. Rick Scott

But taxpayer incentives are not the only issue dividing the speaker and the governor.

The governor is proposing $618 million in tax cuts. 

"It's a process. You're competing. We're not the only place that people can go," Scott said. "We've got great weather? We had great weather back in 2010 when we lost all those jobs." 

But Corcoran says a looming budget deficit could make the cuts unaffordable. 

Lawmakers also have other issues to deal with. 

In addition to implementing medical marijuana, the state is dealing with bills to allow guns on college campuses and airports, to expanding the state's controversial "stand your ground" protections.

Legislators are also going to consider a contentious proposal to reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee blamed for toxic algae blooms. They are also expected to act quickly to fix Florida's death penalty law.

Corcoran also has another proposal: Term limits on judges. 

"We need judges who will reject the temptation to turn themselves into some unelected super legislature," he said. 

All of those issues could make ending the session on time wishful thinking. 

Many are already predicting a special session in May or June to continue to sort out all of the potential issues.