ORLANDO, Fla. – From the presidential election to Florida's legislative session to the 2020 Census, it will be one of the busiest political years in recent memory.
It all starts Tuesday when Florida lawmakers and lobbyists descend on Tallahassee for 60 days of bill-passing and fiery debate. This year's legislative session starts two months earlier than usual to avoid conflicting with the Democratic presidential primary in March.
News 6 political expert Dr. Jim Clark joined anchor Justin Warmoth on "The Weekly on ClickOrlando.com" to break down the key topics expected to be discussed when session starts next week.
"The most important thing is there's plenty of money," Clark said. "They'll be focused on how to spend the $91.4 billion in the governor's budget."
Governor Ron DeSantis dubbed 2020 'the year of the year' when he rolled out his proposal to boost starting teacher pay to $47,500 and put $300 million towards a bonus program for qualifying educators. The proposed $1 billion investment, part of DeSantis' more than $91 billion proposal, is seemingly a step in the right direction, but it's received a fair amount of opposition from the Florida Education Association.
During an interview on "The Weekly on ClickOrlando.com," FEA president Fedrick Ingram poked holes in the proposal, pointing out the thousands of veteran teachers who aren't included. He said many of them work their entire careers to reach the $47,500 mark and the imbalance would not be taken well.
Clark believes the education funding in the governor's proposal will be one of the most significant issues debated during this year's session.
"I think it has ramifications in education and quality of life and attracting companies that want good schools for their employees," Clark said. "So I think it's the most important along with environment."
Since taking office last year, DeSantis has made improving Florida's environment and water quality one of his top priorities. The $625 million the governor is looking for in this year's budget includes money for Everglades restoration, fighting toxic algae outbreaks and Florida's land preservation programs.
"It addresses all things that need to be done and that were not addressed during [Rick] Scott's administration," Clark said. "There was kind of a denial during Scott's eight years as governor. Governor DeSantis has moved in and really tackled these issues and impressed lots of people."
Another highly-contentious piece of legislation that's set to be debated among Florida legislators surrounds immigration. Some Republican lawmakers, including DeSantis, strongly back a bill that would require businesses in Florida to use E-Verify to check the citizenship status of potential hires.
"There's huge opposition to that bill," Clark said. "There are so many undocumented workers who are working in the sugar fields and tourism, tens of thousands in Florida, and agriculture and tourism are concerned that it would cripple their industries to take away all of these employees."
Out of the more than 3,000 pieces of legislation that will be introduced this year, which range from gun control to legalizing recreational marijuana, only about 200 will actually become law.
Once the dust begins to settle in Tallahassee, the focus will then shift to the Democratic presidential primary election in March.
Which candidates will end up being on the ballot, however, remains to be unseen. Clark believes Florida's Democratic voters could have as few as three presidential hopefuls to choose from.
"People will get bumped out after Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina," Clark said. "Money is the lifeblood, and when you get to Florida and you have to buy lots of television advertising, it gets very expensive. If you don't have money you're out of luck."
“The Weekly on ClickOrlando.com” airs on Sundays at 7:30 a.m. on News 6.