March 2, 2010, the opening day of the 60-day 2010 regular session of the Florida Legislature, saw speeches from Gov. Charlie Crist, Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach), and House Speaker Larry Cretul (R-Ocala), in which each of the leaders outlined his priorities for the session.
Gov. Crist, currently running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, used his final State of the State speech not only to set out near-term priorities, but also to defend his record. He urged legislators to approve a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, enact tougher ethical standards for members and staff of the Florida Public Service Commission, introduce new spending on biotech and green energy technologies, and increase spending on higher education.
The governor took the opportunity to defend his support of federal stimulus legislation in 2009, saying that he was merely assuring that Florida received its fair share of federal money. “Isn't that more helpful to Floridians than engaging in hollow posturing that achieves nothing? This is what I mean by sticking to our core principles and not elevating ideology over real solutions.”
Senate President Atwater's speech to his fellow senators emphasized the goals of stimulating business development, reforming education, and cracking down on fraud. He said that Florida's top priority should be to stimulate business growth by eliminating barriers to entrepreneurship and streamlining regulation. Education reforms would include increased emphasis on math and science along with modifications to the class-size constitutional amendment originally adopted in 2002.
House Speaker Cretul focused on the budget shortfall, suggesting that some agencies may be reorganized, but that “we will not play accounting games like they do in Sacramento or Albany. We will balance our budget with the dollars we have.” He also urged legislators to “focus on ways to recharge Florida's economy and put Floridians back to work.”