There’s no slowing down for Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, even with legislative session over in Tallahassee.
Nuñez, who currently oversees health-care issues in the state as charged by Gov. Ron DeSantis, met with the health departments in Lee and Collier counties on June 24. She says she’s visited some 15 health departments around the state so far to discuss public health issues like Hepatitis A, which has crept up in numbers, as well as HIV and AIDS, which the Centers for Disease Control say also are problems.
A day later on June 25, she welcomed Vice President Mike Pence to Miami for a rally with the 2020 presidential race firing up.
After that, she took a moment to hop on the line to speak with Keys Weekly about victories from this past legislative for the islands.
Nuñez was elected Florida’s first Hispanic female lieutenant governor in 2018. She served as state representative in the Florida House from 2010-18, and was speaker pro tempore the final two years in the House.
An Islamorada homeowner, Nuñez recently paid a visit to the Florida Keys with DeSantis and state officials. With welcoming news the two brought — $21 million for debris removal to continue the Irma recovery efforts and $35 million for affordable/workforce housing — Nuñez received some special recognition from Monroe County Mayor Sylvia Murphy.
“Not only did I become an honorary Conch, but we came to let the Keys know we are still focused on providing assistance for hurricane recovery and affordable housing, which is a continued focal point,” Nuñez told the Weekly.
“If it hasn’t come from Tallahassee, it should be forthcoming — upwards of $21 million in Irma funding that’s being expedited,” Nuñez said.
As for session in Tallahassee, Nuñez said there were tremendous accomplishments, especially on the environmental side with $680 million for initiatives like Everglades and springs restorations as well as combatting blue-green algae and red tide.
“I think what you could say is that not only did the Keys fare well, but the entire state fared amazingly well,” Nuñez said. “These are things that really worried residents in the state of Florida. The governor is committed in making sure we’re protecting our environment.”
Apart from funding victories, Nuñez said there were victories in health care with the reduction of prescription drug costs. DeSantis signed House Bill 19 into law last month that established two programs: the Canadian Prescription Drug Importation Program (CPDI) and the International Prescription Drug Importation Program (IPDI) to safely import federal Food and Drug Administration-approved prescription drugs into the state.
The bill outlines importation processes, safety standards, drug distribution requirements and penalties for violations of program requirements. Both programs establish eligibility criteria for the types of prescription drugs which may be imported. The bill also requires both programs to seek federal approval or cooperation prior to importing prescription drugs.
“The exorbitant cost of prescription drugs is a tremendous problem in this country’s healthcare spending, and I am honored to be part of an administration facing this problem head on,” Nuñez said. “Our state’s new Drug Importation Program will aid Floridians and provide them with a safe and affordable solution to these high costs.”
Moving forward to next session, the administration will continues its focus in areas like education and higher education, in which Nuñez says the governor’s made clear that he wants “Florida to be at the top.”
“We’ll continue the investment and make sure we’re aligning workforce ends with job offerings, all while investing in career and technical education,” she said.
Human trafficking is also at the forefront for Nuñez. Florida is one of the highest trafficked destinations, and with the next two Super Bowls in south Florida, Nuñez said it will continue to be a focus. Nuñez sits on the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking that’s chaired by Attorney General Ashley Moody. Last year, the state recorded the third-most calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Also at the forefront for Nuñez is Space Florida, which she chairs. Florida represents some of the best space-related technology, innovation and exploration with 17,144-plus aerospace-related companies. And just recently, Boeing announced it would be moving its space and launch headquarters from Virginia to Titusville, Florida’s Space Coast.
“It is further evidence that Florida is the ideal environment for the space industry to continue thriving,” she said. “We welcome Boeing and encourage others to enjoy the benefits out great state has to offer.”
When she gets a free moment, Nuñez comes down to the Keys to her Islamorada home. She paid a visit to the Keys on the Fourth of July where she participated in the Key Largo parade. And with ongoing discussion over who puts on the best fireworks, Nuñez jokes that there needs to be a poll for best display.
“Whoever wins, I will be there,” she said.