2005 Session Opens

The 2005 legislative session opened in Tallahassee Tuesday with a long laundry list of things Gov. Jeb Bush wants to accomplish before he leaves office in two years.

Florida is flush with cash for the coming budget, but critics say the governor’s speech was flat.

After four hurricanes in two months last year, Gov. Jeb Bush told lawmakers Tuesday, "The state of our state is stronger than ever."

Bush outlined a laundry list of programs in his annual State of the State speech from repealing class size to expanding vouchers, reforming Medicaid, hurricane relief, and making it harder for people to change the Constitution.

He honored an Iraqi living in Florida who voted in his first national election, and a Florida National Guardsman who has been in Iraq and is now heading to Afghanistan.

When it came to issues, most of the applause in the joint legislative session was muted. Critics like Rep. Ron Greenstein of Broward County say the governor didn’t fill in the blanks and he lacks specifics.

"What we got right there was a preamble. The first speech is someone who looks like running for president, you got a situation where you just gave us the top of the iceberg but didn’t come through with the details."

Afterward, the governor brushed aside his critics.

"It’s a pretty heavy, heavy lift for the Legislature. The concern I think ought to be is this too much rather than is it nothing."

Florida is flush with cash, and a strong economy is bringing in more. For the first time in four years, legislative leaders like each other and have promised to get along.

While this year’s legislative agenda is very full, the first 10 days of this session are clearly going to be dominated by the question of what, if anything, can be done for Terri Schiavo?

The first hearing on a bill that could prolong Schiavo’s life will be on Wednesday. The Schiavo bill is up for a vote in the House Health Care Committee. It would prohibit the removal of feeding and hydration tubes unless the patient agreed in advance and in writing.