Albritton Formally Tapped as Florida’s Next Senate President
TALLAHASSEE — Bolstering Florida’s agriculture industry, addressing water-quality issues and supporting the foster-care system are priorities that Sen. Ben Albritton is eyeing as he prepares to become the next Senate president.
Albritton, a Wauchula Republican who is a fourth-generation citrus grower, was formally designated Tuesday to succeed President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, after the 2024 elections. He spoke about his affinity for agriculture during a designation ceremony in the Senate chamber attended by Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state leaders.
“It’s part of what drove me to public service. I know firsthand what it takes to produce the food that feeds our state, our country and the world. If you really stand back and think about it, the fact is, the survival of agriculture is the survival of humanity,” Albritton said.
Albritton, who spoke about providing support for farmers, also has advocated for increasing funding to study such things as deadly citrus greening disease, which has played a major role in declining citrus production over the past two decades.
As he made a nominating speech during Tuesday’s ceremony, Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, pointed to Albritton’s involvement in the citrus industry.
“This a man, this is a family, this is a state that has endured and survived citrus canker (disease), citrus greening. And yet today, he’s the most optimistic person in that industry I’ve ever met,” Hooper said.
Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Albritton also said water quality is “vitally important to the economy” and pledged to work to “create additional value in water quality here in the state.” Albritton also touted work on helping the foster-care system, saying that providing support to it has “been a big part of what we do.”
During the ceremony, Albritton addressed DeSantis, calling him a “focused and principled fighter for what’s good.”
Asked by reporters about whether he had been briefed by DeSantis about an executive order last week that declared a Florida state of emergency amid the war between Israel and Hamas, the incoming Senate president said he had not heard directly from the governor on the matter.
The executive order allows DeSantis to tap into a state emergency fund. The state paid for flights conducted by a non-profit over the weekend to bring about 270 Americans from Israel to Florida.
Albritton said he supports the governor’s actions.
“If the question is, do I believe that going in and getting 300 Americans out of Israel using state dollars was the appropriate choice, the answer is yes. I’m thankful that he did,” Albritton told reporters.
Earlier in the week, House Democrats questioned whether states should be getting involved in what they described as a federal matter. The U.S. government has been flying Americans from Israel to Greece and working with Royal Caribbean to ferry people from Israel to Cyprus while fielding thousands of requests for travel assistance.
Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, pointed to potential duplication of efforts with the federal government.
“What kind of resources are we wasting by sending two different rescue efforts to the same group of individuals?” Skidmore said during a Monday news conference.
Lawmakers in recent years have passed a series of measures to try to shore up the troubled property-insurance industry, but many homeowners continue to see soaring rates. Albritton said Tuesday the cost of insurance is “pressing down on families.” While referring to legislation that addressed issues such as trying to limit lawsuits against insurers, he said efforts to fix the insurance system are not over.
“We have been focused on the issue, with the sweeping tort reform that we put into place last year. The insurer accountability bill that we passed this last year as well, are going to make the system better. But what’s most important and what I think Floridians really want to hear, is that we’re going to keep looking. And we’re going to keep working,” Albritton said.
Albritton also discussed striking a balance between his advocacy for agriculture and efforts to create additional affordable housing as Florida’s population continues to grow.
Acknowledging that the affordable housing issue is “large on the mind” of Floridians, he said the “answer to the balance of that question is about the environment.”
“We need to continue to keep pushing forward the programs, we have several here at the state level, for supporting conservation here in Florida. And it seems simplistic to me, this is my perspective, you’ve got to keep pushing all three of those things forward together. Because you’ll find balance as you go forward,” Albritton said.
Passidomo, who will continue leading the Senate for the next year, described what she called Albritton’s “curious mind and boundless creativity” and said he will lead the chamber with “the same energy and enthusiasm he has infused in his 13 years as a legislator.”
Albritton and Rep. Daniel Perez, a Miami Republican who will become House speaker after the 2024 elections, have spoken about their friendship despite having different personal backgrounds. Albritton said he and Perez, who is younger, hails from Miami and is the son of Cuban immigrants, are both “driven by a desire to help others.”
“My expectation is that we’re going to see great things when it’s our turn. Vulnerable folks in the state, we’re going to renew the focus and concentration on that,” Albritton said.
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