Editorial: Experience makes Harrell clear choice in Senate Dist. 25

When looking over the field of candidates vying for local district seats in the Florida Legislature this November, it’s difficult to find anyone more experienced at getting things done than Gayle Harrell.

Argue as we might with Harrell’s position on specific issues such as K-12 education funding and Medicaid expansion, her success at navigating the oftentimes turbulent lawmaking process to fight for state House District 83 make the former educator the best choice to replace outgoing Senate president Joe Negron in Senate District 25.

The 75-year-old Republican faces Democrat Robert Levy. The 64-year-old physician, who sold his practice years ago and now volunteers at a clinic that provides health care to the poor, told the Post Editorial Board that he would make working across the aisle on issues like the toxic algae crisis and expanding Medicaid a top priority. “I am not an ideologue,” he said.

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But Republicans will still control the Legislature. And it has taken years to get the Treasure Coast’s most intractable issue to the point it is now: building a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee and restoring the natural flow of through the Everglades. Harrell, while doing two stints in the House over 18 years, has played a key role in that effort.

The “Legacy Florida” bill, which she sponsored along with Negron and two other co-sponsors, will funnel an estimated $4 billion of state funds into Everglades restoration, “with priority given to projects that stop the releases from Lake Okeechobee,” she said, adding that there is already $650 million from 2014’s Amendment 1 awaiting federal matching dollars. “This is a game-changer for our community, our environment and our economy.”

Harrell already has plans to introduce what she calls “Legacy Florida 2.0,” setting aside $50 million to begin researching how to restore the Indian River Lagoon.

Her work on fighting the state’s opioid crisis is indicative of Harrell’s legislative approach. In her first eight years in the House, she worked to champion the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which was approved by the Legislature in 2009. In 2011, she said she worked closely with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to pass legislation against pill mills, and this year helped push Senate Bill 21 through the House to clamp down the prescribing of opioids. “That’s the first step,” she said.

Like most Republicans during this year’s session, Harrell was willing to put her National Rifle Association A-rating on the line by voting for the massive school safety bill in the wake of the Parkland shooting.

“There are some things we shouldn’t compromise on, and student safety is clearly one of those,” she said, adding that “more needs to be done on mental health side.”

Read all of The Post’s endorsements online at www.MyPalmBeachPost.com/2018-endorsements.

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