TALLAHASSEE — The 2011 Legislative session commenced this morning with largely ceremonial proceedings in the Florida House and Senate.
But the real action is unfurling outside, where opposing rallies are being held on either side of Monroe Street, which runs in front of the Old State Capitol.
A few hundred tea party members and supporters of Gov. Rick Scott are gathered in front of the Capitol listening to speakers, waving American flags and “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, and holding signs.
Scott addressed the crowd just after 1 p.m., calling for cuts to the state budget. He called for residents to hold elected officials accountable.
“If we’re not going down the path that we said, call us; show up right here and complain, cause we are going to do exactly what we said we were going to do,” Scott said. “Next, show up and let everybody else around the state and in Tallahassee know what you believe in. It’s easy to get distracted up here.”
Carolyn Hunter-Haast, 61, who lives outside of Gainesville, stood on the Capitol lawn with her son-in-law and granddaughter, holding a sign reading “I support Rick Scott.”
“We heard there were going to be unions represented,” she said. “So we came to show our support for Rick Scott for what he’s doing for the state and for the people.”
Charles Crites, 68, a part-time Tampa resident who makes his primary home in Michigan, held a sign reading “Unions = Broke”. Crites said he owns a small towing business in Tampa, teaches automotive repair in Michigan, and has been an off-and-on union member during his life.
“I never felt like they served me well,” Crites said.
Across the street in front of the Leon County Courthouse, a slightly smaller, but equally boisterous crowd of students, union members and supporters of state workers waved their own flags and signs. The Socialist Workers Party was selling books at the rally.
Rob Wright, 57, who described himself as a Republican and environmental worker from Sarasota, traveled to Tallahassee to protest proposed cuts in education and services.
“If the cuts go through as they are now, people won’t discover the lack of services for a couple of years,” he said. “By that time its too late.”
Gerald Losey, 78, a Tallahassee resident whose son is a state employee, came to support state workers, whose jobs he feels are threatened by Scott’s proposed budget cuts. He held a sign reading “The tooth fairy will create more jobs than Scott’s tax cuts for the wealthy.”
“I just want to see fairness,” Losey said. “I don’t think we should take state workers and cut their pay.”
Return to naplesnews.com at 6 p.m. for a live video link to Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State speech, which will be streamed live on Scripps' ABC TV station in Tampa at abcactionnews.com.