State senator: COVID-19 caused Florida lawmakers to ‘change course a bit’ during budget discussion

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley (News Service of Florida)

FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. – State Sen. Rob Bradley, R- Fleming Island, spent the last three legislative sessions overseeing the Florida budget as appropriations chairman.

He and other lawmakers had to move quickly when they were wrapping up the 60-day session in March.

“When we were about two weeks out from the end of session, COVID-19 and the impact of COVID-19 started to become very clear, and so we were heading in one direction and we had to change course a bit,” Bradley said.

According to Bradley, an additional $300 million was put aside in reserves, and an initial investment for emergency response came in at $50 million, which could go toward PPE for first responders and health care providers. Some of the money was set aside for the unemployment system, which is now overwhelmed.

Bradley said experiences like the Parkland school shooting and hurricanes have taught the Senate and the House of Representatives to adjust on the fly and be ready at a moment’s notice.

Beyond the impact of COVID-19, Bradley called the budget a success for education, specifically teacher salaries. He said a new starting wage of at least $47,000 a year puts Florida in the top five nationally.

“I think it’s long overdue that we recognize our teachers in this manner and attract the best folks to come to that profession,” he said.

Bradley said he’s happy the state put $650 million toward the environment and passed a major water bill to tighten restrictions on polluters.

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