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Sen. Chris Smith: Gov. Rick Scott playing politics with teacher pay

Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith mostly focused on pushing the Democratic agenda during his 30-minute talk at the annual AP forum, but he didn’t hold back when asked about the 2014 governor’s race.

The Fort Lauderdale resident said just about anybody from his party, including Charlie Crist, would be better that Gov. Rick Scott winning re-election.

“Gov. Scott has shown an inability to really bring the state together and to run the state well,” Smith said. “And so I think any gubernatorial candidate from the Democratic side will have a good shot at the next election.”

Smith describe the governor as a flip-flopper who is altering his policy stance in order to cull favor with voters. He used Scott’s proposal to giveteachers across-the-board pay raises as a prime example.

“You look at the 3 percent we’ve taken the last two years, so when you get at this $2,500 dollars it’s not a net gain for teachers because of what he’s done in the past, Smith said. “To have this sudden epiphany to me reeks of election year is coming."

Here are some other other highlights from Smith’s speech and the question-and-answer session that followed:

Stand Your Ground

He would like the state’s self-defense laws changed to give law enforcement agencies the power to detain people who claim Stand Your Ground while the investigation takes place, to make it more difficult for aggressors in an incident to claim Stand Your Ground and to require the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to keep statistics on the usage of Stand Your Ground.

For too long, Smith said, the Legislature has passed laws pushed by the National Rifle Association. He acknowledged that it may be difficult to get Republican lawmakers to change course the conversation needed to happen.

“I think to get away from that culture of violence we have to we must do something about Stand Your Ground," Smith said. "And the way that we’ve acted many times, many times on behalf of the NRA we’re going to call on the Legislature to react on behalf of citizens of Florida.”

Affordable Care Act

Smith is encouraging Republican lawmakers accept the federal money available to expand Medicaid enrollment.

“This issue has been deliberated, debated, litigated and procrastinated,” he said. “The Legislature has waited on a president to lose an election. The Legislature has waited on the Supreme Court to give a decision. The Legislature has waited for years, and now we’re told that it’s too late.”

Smith said too much of the focus has been on the cost of the Medicaid expansion and no the benefits, such as saving general revenue dollars by putting more Florida citizens on the health care program largely funded by the federal government.

Election Reform

“I hate to stand here and say it but I have to, because we told you so,” Smith said.

He said the decreased early voting hours, taking away early voting on the Sunday before election day, loading up the ballot with lengthy constitutional amendments were all predicted as problematic by Democratic lawmakers.

“And we saw once again, Florida was the butt of national jokes on late night talk shows when it comes to elections,” Smith said.

Several Senate Democrats have filed bills to expand early voting, to make it more convenient to register or update voter registrations, and to give supervisors of elections more flexibility in choosing early voting sites.

A bit of the rest

Smith said he is watching legislation that looks to depopulate Citizens and make the private insurance market stronger. He also said he supported efforts to create an Inspector General position at Citizens.

He said he would not support allowing charter schools to take a larger share of capitol dollars used by public schools for facility and building upgrades.