Following Elections, Farm Bureau Focuses on 2019 Legislative Session


Republicans Win 4 of 5 Statewide Races
After the dust settled on multiple recounts in a number of statewide and legislative races, Republicans emerged victorious in four of the five statewide races. The only statewide elected Democrat in Florida will be Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, who beat Republican Matt Caldwell by only 6,100 votes.

Commissioner Fried will be joined on the Cabinet by Governor Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, all Republicans. Gov. Rick Scott won his race over incumbent U.S. Senator Bill Nelson by less than 13,000 votes.

Florida Farm Bureau looks forward to working with our elected officials at the state and federal levels as we continue to make agriculture in our state stronger.

Democrats Pick Up a Net Gain of 5 House Seats and 1 Senate Seat
While the results weren’t nearly the same in Florida as they were nationally, Democrats were able to chip away at the Republican majority in both chambers of the state legislature. Democrats flipped one state Senate seat, ousting incumbent Sen. Dana Young in Tampa by a very slim margin that also required a recount.

In the House of Representatives, Democrats picked up a net gain of five seats, flipping a total of seven seats from Republican control to Democrat, including upsetting three Republican incumbents (Rep. Shawn Harrison in Tampa, Rep. Bobby Olszewski in Orlando and Rep. Bob Cortes in Altamonte Springs). However, Republicans flipped two seats of their own, with Elizabeth Fetterhoff topping incumbent Democrat Rep. Patrick Henry in a race that went to a recount. Also, in Dade County, Anthony Rodriguez defeated Democrat incumbent Rep. Robert Asencio by less than 1,300 votes.

Regardless, Republicans still hold large majorities in both chambers. Rep. Jose Oliva will be Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and Sen. Bill Galvano will be Senate President.

As if we didn’t already know, Florida is a deeply divided state, with several races coming down to the wire and many races decided via recount. In Florida, the third largest state in the country, more than 8.2 million votes were cast out of 13 million registered voters (a 62 percent turnout), and every vote truly does count as we have seen in most every election since the 2000 Presidential election when Florida first took the spotlight as America’s largest swing state. Turnout matters, and in 2018, it looks like Republicans were able to match the large turnout by Democrats to keep pace and retain their control of the Cabinet and the Legislature.

Voters Approve 11 Amendments, Reject 1
After the Florida Supreme Court removed Amendment 8 from the ballot, Floridians voted on twelve proposed amendments to the state constitution. Eleven of them passed. The only amendment to fail was Amendment 1, an increase in the homestead exemption.

Meanwhile, all other amendments passed, most notably an amendment that automatically restores voting rights to more than 1 million non-violent felons, an amendment that bans offshore oil drilling and indoor vaping and an amendment that bans all greyhound racing in Florida by 2021.

Florida Farm Bureau Begins Preparations for the 2019 Legislative Session
With the 2018 election season finally behind us, Florida Farm Bureau can now begin preparations for the 2019 legislative session which begins March 5. The 60-day session is scheduled to conclude on Friday, May 3.

There are many issues Farm Bureau is looking to tackle in 2019, but one priority will definitely be to offer assistance to the farmers and ranchers in the Panhandle that were impacted by Hurricane Michael in October. Last year, Farm Bureau helped provide $25 million in sales tax relief to producers affected by Hurricane Irma and will look at assisting our members and growers as much as possible in the coming months.

Also, please mark your calendars for Florida Farm Bureau’s Legislative Days event, which will be held Tues., March 5 and Wed., March 6. The annual “Taste of Florida Agriculture” reception will be held on the evening of March 6. As we head into 2019 with new Cabinet leadership including a new Governor and Agriculture Commissioner, a new House Speaker and a new Senate President, it is critical to have Florida Farm Bureau members from every corner of the state travel to Tallahassee and join us as the Voice of Agriculture at the state Capitol as we kick off the 2019 legislative session with Farm Bureau’s Legislative Days.