State Rep. Holly Raschein had quite a busy day on March 5. The first day of session in Tallahassee, she got an early start to her morning as she met with Noah Valenstein, head of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, to discuss the agency’s budget priorities. Then it was on to opening ceremonies where the speaker opened the 60-day session. 

Following speeches by the House speaker and the Senate president, it was Gov. Ron DeSantis’ turn to outline his priorities in his State of the State address. After that, Raschein squeezed in some time to get a bite to eat before a marathon meeting where legislators went through 75 bills. She then hopped on the phone for a 15-minute interview with the Weekly. 

Raschein enters her fourth and final term as representative of the Florida Keys in Tallahassee, following her victory in last November’s election. First elected in 2012, she returns to the capitol this year as a senior legislator. Raschein told the Weekly it was a pretty incredible start to the 2019 session as DeSantis’ address highlighted a variety of topics. 

“The governor has made it very clear that his administration is going to move swiftly,” she said. “Right out of the gate, he asked for the resignations of the South Florida Water Management District Board, he appointed three Supreme Court justices, he has shown a lot of leadership in school safety issues in regards to the Marjory Stoneman tragedy, and he’s also taking on issues in education, encouraging us to do away with Best and Brightest and replace with a more streamlined program.”

With the environment a top priority in the Keys, Raschein says the governor’s commitment to making area water resources clean and funding for major projects like Everglades restoration is a breathe of fresh air. 

“Certainly, it’s a direction change from the previous administration,” she said. “He’s willing to work both chambers, and it’s very refreshing to be in a place to get things accomplished.”

A number of priorities are on Raschein’s list as session begins, one in particular being funding for the Florida Keys Stewardship Act, a significant state policy shift toward protecting the Keys’ near shore waters and lands that are critical to our delicate ecosystem. Changing Florida Keys Community College to College of the Florida Keys, a request by the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority for a reverse osmosis plant and a bill to reduce wind storm insurance rates are also items Raschein hopes to get through this year. 

“There are lots of issues going on, and funding is always a big deal in the Keys,” she said. “There are a couple major hurricane recovery projects continuing that we’re working to get to the finish line.”

“We also need to continue to keep pressure on for environmental projects, especially for the Everglades Restoration Projects,” she continued. “That’s a big deal. Also combating red tide and harmful algal blooms; those issues certainly aren’t going away. Coral disease is wreaking havoc on the reef and the governor put in $2.5 million, and I’d love to see that money stay in the budget.”

Raschein says it’s a wonderful opportunity to represent one of the most diverse district in the state. Improving quality of life and the economy of the Keys has been her priority, and she says it will continue to be a priority. 

“Getting things done, passing bills that support us and bring home funding for our environment and needs for our hurricane recovery, I think we have been pretty successful,” she said. “We’re such a special place in the state and have unique needs and challenges. It’s such a great honor to be able to represent the people of the Florida Keys.”

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