Florida Senate President Joe Negron kicked off the first day of the annual 60-day Legislative Session by making clear that higher education and environmental issues will continue to be his top priorities.
On higher education Negron said his focus will be turning Florida’s universities into “elite destinations” and making sure no one is denied a university education for economic reasons or where they come from.
“My vision is that we will have in Florida national elite destination universities that people from all over the country will want to come to,” said Negron, citing the University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan as examples.
He said a second guiding principles is making sure where a student comes from doesn’t keep the from higher education.
“Every student in Florida,regardless of their financial circumstances - what family they come from - will have an opportunity to attend a university in which she or he is accepted,” Negron said.
On the environment, Negron talked about his disgust over watching pollution from Lake Okeechobee making swimming dangerous. He said at hospitals in Martin County, patients had to fill out a questionnaire to see if they had come into contact with area algae-infested water supplies before they could be treated.
“Let’s stop the Lake Okeechobee discharges,” Negron, 55, said.
Negron is pushing a $2.4 billion water storage plan south of Lake Okeechobee that is aimed at reducing polluted water discharges into lakes and estuaries to the east and west of the lake. Though he faces a fight with agricultural interests over his plan, Negron said Tuesday he will work with those interests.
“I am confident we can work with the agricultural community,” Negron said.
To help pay for the cost Negron has looked toward Amendment 1, approved by 75 percent of voters in 2014. That amendment was passed with the promise of increasing spending on land and water conservation.
“The Legislature owes it to the millions of Floridians who voted for that amendment, to fully implement Amendment 1 the way voters anticipated,” Negron said.