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Florida Senate president aims to send 3 bills to Gov. Scott this week


With the 2016 legislative session underway, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, says he hopes to get House and Senate leaders' top priorities cleared from both chambers and sent to Gov. Rick Scott's desk by Friday.

Those include a comprehensive water policy plan that died with the abrupt end to last year's session and two bills in a package of initiatives led by Gardiner to improve educational and job opportunities for Floridians who have disabilities.

"It could be a very good week and I think it sets the tone for where we are over the next 60 days," Gardiner told reporters after the opening session.

Other priorities Gardiner mentioned in his opening day speech include several topics that are -- in general -- agreed upon with House leaders and Scott: cutting taxes, reforming Enterprise Florida funding and allocating "unprecedented funding for K-12."

The disagreement among Scott and House and Senate leaders is over the details of each of those goals.

Gardiner also wants the Senate to address the backlog of more than 20,000 people seeking services from the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

"Let's make a commitment to clear that list," he said.

Gardiner is starting his 16th and final year as a lawmaker and his 21st with the Legislature including his time as an aide. Expressing nostalgia, he called on his Senate colleagues to think back to why they first ran for office.

He said for himself, he wanted to be a part of what former Gov. Jeb Bush called "being a compassionate conservative."

"Each of us comes up here and we have ideas and values and goals that we want to pursue, but over the next 60 days, I want you to remember why you ran for office: What was the role of government you campaigned on and what did you want to accomplish?" Gardiner said.

He added: "And you have my commitment, that when you go back to your roots and what you wanted to accomplish, as your president, I'll help you do that. I may not agree with you, I may vote against you, but I will help you do that."