Six key members of Pinellas County’s legislative delegation – the politicians who represent the area in Tallahassee – appeared on this week’s virtual Suncoast Tiger Bay Forum, moderated by Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch.
Participating were Senator Jeff Brandes, District 24; Senator Darryl Rouson, District 19; Rep. Ben Diamond, District 68; Rep. Traci Koster, District 64; Rep. Chris Latvala, District 67; and Rep. Michele Rayner, District 70.
The session, which took place during the most crucial months of the Covid-19 pandemic, ended June 2 when Governor Ron DeSantis signed the $101.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2021-2022.
Schorsch began by asking each member of the panel to describe the session in one word.
Rouson described the session as “difficult,” pointing out the controversial transgender bill, the voter suppression bill and the anti-protesters bill as disappointments. However, he said, “there were some other things that passed that did our businesses and our communities good.
Saying he agreed with Rouson, Diamond chose the word “distressing.” There were “a number of missed opportunities to help people coming out of this public health crisis,” he explained.
Koster: “Rebound. The central focus of this legislative session was Covid. I think it permeated through much of what we did this session; we focused on the rebound of our state.”
Brandes: “I’m going to do it in two words. I’m going to call it spaghetti politics. Where we threw everything up against the wall to see what stuck.” Some of it, Brandes explained, was “good policy, and some of it wasn’t.”
Latvala termed the year “conservative,” while Raynor used the descriptor “challenging.”
Virtual attendees queried the panel about eviction law reform, the influence – if any – of public discourse through social media, their biggest disappointments of the session and their predictions for the top issue facing the Florida Legislature in the next session.
Click on the arrow above to watch the one-hour discussion.
For information about the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club, click here.