Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, answered questions from reporters regarding bills that deal with retirement, texting while driving, tax breaks, teacher pay raises and failing schools.
The Senate now has three session days left to get a hefty workload done and Senate President Don Gaetz has started to show his more outspoken side on many topics left to tackle.
The Niceville Republican seemed to be in good spirits when he joked with reporters about the House having to read some bills in full due to a Democratic caucus protest of the House’s refusal to accept federal money to provide health insurance for 1 million low-income Floridians. However, Gaetz showed his much more “firm” side -as he described it- when the parent trigger bill was killed in a 20-20 vote to the applause of some in the gallery who he then warned would be kicked out if there were any more disruptions.
Gaetz said the parent trigger vote shows there is “still a great divide in the Senate about that issue.”
He also fielded question on a number of topics, including:
-Retirement pensions: House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, had made it a personal priority to pass a bill that would put all new state employees in a 401(K)-like plan and eventually shut down the state’s existing “defined benefit” plan that pays retirees based on their salary and time on the job. Gaetz said he did not instruct anyone how to vote on the measure when the Senate heard it Tuesday. After hearing that sponsor Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Tribly, had declared the bill as dead, Gaetz said, “If the sponsor says it’s dead, it’s probably dead.”
-Ban on texting while driving Gaetz said he hopes that the Senate has a chance to hear the bill again and send it back to the House before session ends May 3 and that he supports the version that they passed out, not the newly amended House version.
-Manufacturing tax deal with Gov. Rick Scott Scott told reporters on Monday he had reached a deal with Gaetz and Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, to create a three year tax exemption for manufacturers. Gaetz said later that day there was no such deal. The snag on the deal being “final” seems to be that nothing is in writing yet, said Gaetz.
-Alimony, ethics and campaign finance reform: Scott has until Wednesday to sign all three bills. Gaetz said he hopes the governor will sign them all into law since he was a “yes” vote on all three.
-Teacher pay raise: Budget language currently has teachers waiting until June 2014 for their pay raise, but Gaetz said he hopes that they can go forward and give them the “pay increase that they deserve” earlier, as soon as the money is collectively bargained.