Opening of Florida Legislative Session [SPEECH OF HOUSE SPEAKER ATTACHED]

By: Eyewitness News; Associated Press Email
By: Eyewitness News; Associated Press Email

Tallahassee, FL - Florida Governor Rick Scott didn't get a hero's welcome outside Florida's House Chambers Tuesday. The Governor received some "boo's" from youth activist organization "The Dream Defenders."

But inside the House, Scott got right to work with his "state of the state" address ahead of the 2013 legislative session.

"We are now in a better position than ever before to reward good teachers and move bad teachers out of the classroom. We don't want a war on teachers; we want a war on failure," said Scott, continuing his platform of emphasizing education.

Pay raises for both teachers and state workers will be a factor this session, especially now that lawmakers don't have to fight with billion dollar budget shortfalls for the first time in six years.

"We have to emphasize more funding in education, we have to recognize the good teachers in our school system, and I'm very proud of what the governor has said for the $2,500 dollar raise, and I emphasize raise because it's not a bonus," said Sen. Bill Montford, the Senate Education Committee's vice-chair.

Reform could be in the cards too. The Florida House passed an elections reform bill that increases the amount of early voting days, puts limits on some ballot summaries, and increases early voting locations. The bill was conceived after a 2012 general election nightmare for the Sunshine State.

House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) has also made pension reforms for the private sector a top priority.

"With election, we made lots of mistakes which now, in our wisdom of the legislature, the Speaker has looked at it, the Governor looked at it, it was a debacle. And now we don't want to have pensions be a debacle as well. So the cautionary tale is let's take our time," said Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee).

Tallahassee, FL - With the fall of the gavel the 2013 Florida Legislative session officially opened this morning.

WCTV will have in-depth coverage of the session's start tonight on Eyewitness News.

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Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida lawmakers are gathering at the Capitol to kick off their annual session.

The 60-day annual session starts Tuesday. The opening day ceremonies will include the annual state of the state speech given by Gov. Rick Scott.

Lawmakers are expected to deal with a long line of issues over the next nine weeks - including whether to give teachers a $2,500 across the board pay raise. Legislative leaders have also pledged to make changes to the state's election laws and to boost ethical standards for elected officials.

But the biggest issue confronting legislators is whether the state will accept billions in federal aid and expand the Medicaid program. Scott is in favor of expanding the safety-net health insurance program but the House is opposed.

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