This week, a special jumbo-sized edition of Jacksonville Bold looks at the Duval County Legislative Delegation as it prepares for the new session.
State Sens. Aaron Bean and Audrey Gibson, of course, are veterans of the process. However, five of the six representatives from Jacksonville are in their first terms, and given the fractious relationship between the Florida House and the Governor’s Office, they enter the fray at a dramatic moment.
Meanwhile, it has otherwise been a busy news week in Jacksonville, with John Delaney leaving the University of North Florida Presidency, with Lenny Curry vexing the religious right over his HRO non-veto and a race for the presidency of the Jacksonville City Council that has already become contentious.
Aaron Bean tackles hot-button issues with this year’s bills — This week, State Sen. Bean, from SD 4, talked to us about some of his more compelling bills this session, including measures related to EBT cards, noncitizen voting, sanctuary cities, and foreign terror organizations.
SB 1260 would impose new restrictions on EBT users, barring the use of government food subsidies for soft drinks, candy, and other simple sugars.
SB 786, the “Rule of Law Adherence Act,” requires wayward local authorities to comply with federal immigration law, defines what sanctuary cities are, and gives the State Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General the “right to nudge” noncompliant jurisdictions toward enforcement, creating a “duty to report” immigration violations.
SB 476 amends and expands existing Florida statute regarding terrorism, crafting a more expansive definition of “terrorism” and “terrorist activities” in the wake of June’s Pulse massacre.
The bill is currently restricted to foreign terror groups. Bean suggested expanding it to include the homegrown variety as it works through the process. However, he said, this is the “package the governor requested.”
Audrey Gibson talks legal bills, Al Lawson — State Sen. Gibson of SD 6 spoke with Bold this week about two bills relevant to the legal realm, and about the current representative from Florida’s 5th Congressional District.
SB 366 seeks nonpartisan elections for state attorney and public defenders, salient given several 4th Circuit Democrats were shut out of both elections last year via closed primaries.
The bill, which will have a real impact in Jacksonville, is struggling in Tallahassee. Sen. Bean is lukewarm toward it. And those from other one-party-dominated areas don’t want to rock the boat.
“Until somebody gets impacted,” Gibson said, “it doesn’t rise to an issue.
SB 282, a judicial accountability bill, seeks to catalog judges’ sentencing with an eye toward ferreting out disparities on racial grounds.
That bill is on a better track, says Gibson. The Criminal Justice committee hears it Monday, and stakeholders ranging from public defenders and police to the NAACP are looking for ways to strengthen the bill, so it has a chance to pass.
The ultimate goal is justice and ensuring African-American men aren’t punished more harshly than other races. Currently, there is an extreme disparity, Gibson says.
Sen. Gibson has filed for re-election, but she is keeping one eye on Rep. Lawson.
Although she laughed when asked if she was considering running against Lawson, Gibson — also the chair of the Duval Democrats — Jacksonville is the “economic base” of CD 5 and a congressman needs to focus on the “entire district.”
Cord Byrd tackles public safety, appropriations — House District 11 Rep. Byrd was elected last year to serve eastern Duval County and all of Nassau. Heading into his first session, bills he sponsors reflect a mixture of local priorities and the issues that motivated him to run in the first place.
Among them: public safety issues and gun rights.
HB 677, the House version of a Greg Steube bill on the Senate side, is a technical fix/clean up designed to remove previous statutory language that undermined the Castle Doctrine in “stand your ground” self-defense cases, asserting the right to self-defense over a possible presumption of guilt.
HB 949 requires people convicted of DUIs to pay for and install a mandatory ignition interlock device, which would forestall drunken driving going forward. The device would have to remain installed for six months at least.
HB 2781 seeks a $250,000 state match for Jacksonville’s COPS Grant from the federal Department of Justice. The grant is a priority of Jacksonville Mayor Curry, who has run and governed on a public safety first platform.
Byrd has his share of appropriations asks, too.
HB 3267 seeks $5 million for the University of North Florida’s targeted high-tech infrastructure program, an ask of local businesses via the university. Of the total, $3 million would go for equipment, and $2 million would go for an “innovation annex.”
Clay Yarborough tackles lobbyists, drones — House District 12 Rep. Yarborough, a former Jacksonville City Council President, brought some legislative skills to Tallahassee with him.
Moving from a 19 person council to a bicameral Legislature with a Governor who has his own agenda has been an adjustment though. And in that context, it may not be coincidental that Yarborough is carrying bills that can help him build statewide alliances going forward
One such bill, HB 7023, seeks to create a local lobbyist registration trust fund. The bill came out of the Public Integrity committee, where Chairman Larry Metz approached Yarborough to carry the measure.
This “enterprise fund” lends itself to transparency and accountability, Yarborough says.
Yarborough wanted to be on this committee. And he wanted to carry the bill.
HB 1027, paralleled by a Dana Young Senate bill, vests the authority to regulate drones (unmanned aircraft) in the state of Florida.
The bill aims to remove the hodgepodge of conflicting local regulations, restricting certain airspace (private property and security sensitive areas), and requiring FAA approval for exceptions.
The bill had been drafted by another representative, but Yarborough had the capacity to carry it.
Tracie Davis discusses the Tallahassee ‘chess game’ — HD 13 Democrat Davis has never served in a legislative capacity before, giving her a unique perspective on the Tallahassee “chess game.”
In a majority GOP body, Davis has come to realize the necessity of getting to know GOP colleagues, especially committee chairs, in the House and the Senate both.
All of her appropriations bills have been referenced, Davis said, which “is a good sign.”
Davis is carrying the House version of Sen. Gibson’s bill for nonpartisan elections of public defenders and state attorneys (HB 231).
Resistance is coming from Democrats down south, who would just as soon those primary elections be closed to protect party prerogatives.
Davis is advancing a couple of bills at the request of the mayor’s office: a museum upgrade for the J.P. Small Baseball Park is one; the other, $450,000 for stormwater upgrades at the Trout River/Moncrief plant.
Davis is also going to carry the House version of a Darryl Rouson measure in the Senate, advancing a formal apology to boys who suffered for so many years at the Dozier School for Boys, a house of horrors open for a staggering 111 years.
Kim Daniels outlines priorities — HD 14 Democrat Daniels has a number of bills worth watching this session, and she answered our questions regarding them this week.
Daniels described herself as “overjoyed to hear of the ShotSpotter program and the city’s request of me to be the sponsor of that appropriation.”
For Daniels, ShotSpotter is part of a phalanx of bills designed to prevent crime, including an appropriation for the Johnson YMCA, which “includes matching funds to erect a facility to house more programs thus contributing to the prevention and intervention of crime.
“Putting a facility in the middle of Washington Heights Apts. and Cleveland Arms Apts. is like putting a well in the middle of the desert — it is needed,” Daniels asserts.
Daniels is also focused on veterans’ issues in her first term, including bills focusing on preference in hiring veterans (HB 561), and appropriations for the No One Left Behind Veterans’ Initiative (HB 3509) and the Veterans’ Villa Training Initiative (HB 3307).
For Daniels, a veteran herself, the issue is personal.
“I believe that in order for veterans to effectively re-acclimate to civilian life they must have support. We must ensure that they have access to the proper training and job opportunities in order to be successful. We must also continue to advocate for veterans to receive preference in hiring and housing priorities as well as advocate for the funding of medical facilities that provide health care for veterans,” Daniels noted.
The Jacksonville Democrat’s most interesting bill, in a statewide sense: HB 303, which offers latitude in religious expression in public schools.
Daniels, an evangelist, asserts that the bill is constituent-driven.
“This bill would allow school personnel to exercise their right to religious expression in public schools as outlined in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII. It would also allow students to exercise religious expression through coursework, artwork or other specified assignments and organize prayer groups.
“I believe this bill will reinforce federal law set forth in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion. It will also give students who choose to pray or complete coursework on topics related to their faith or religious beliefs the same consideration as students who participate in activities or complete coursework on nonsecular topics.”
Jason Fischer’s ambitious agenda — House District 16 Rep. Fischer also spoke to Bold this week about bills he is carrying.
HB 353, which would foreclose the FRS defined benefit system to new local governments, and HB 663, which would gradually lower the rate of return for public pension plans to match market performance, are “in staff analysis right now,” Fischer told us.
The Jacksonville Republican expects buy-in from the Republican caucus during Session.
HB 65, which establishes civil remedies for terrorism, sailed through committees, Fischer said. The Senate version was sponsored by President Joe Negron last year, and this year is expected to clear both the Senate and House.
The bill allows injured victims of terrorism to collect minimum damages of $1,000, along with legal fees. Fischer said this bill should create a “chilling effect” for financiers of terror.
HB 3831 would appropriate $500,000 to an automated driver shuttle program going to and from Baptist Health.
“People are excited about innovation,” Fischer said, noting this project dovetails with JTA priorities, and that he expects this to be the model for statewide expansion in this space.
Fischer is also seeking $350,000 of state funds for the LaSalle Street pump station, which is expected to abate flooding in the low-lying San Marco neighborhood in Jacksonville.
Additionally, he is excited to be a prime co-sponsor with Rep. Bobby Payne of HB 245, a self-defense immunity bill carried by Rob Bradley in the Senate.
The bill shifts the burden of proof to the government in “stand your ground” cases.
Payne and Fischer both are excited about this bill, which their immediate predecessors (Charles Van Zant and Charles McBurney) opposed last Session.
John Delaney’s next move — Monday was an interesting news cycle for University of North Florida President Delaney, who announced his resignation in May 2018, and teased a next move that may (or may not) include a run for higher office.
As the day progressed, the higher office got less compelling. Delaney may run for a seat in Tallahassee or may run for mayor of Neptune Beach — a far cry from the statewide run his local fans may want for him.
Locals have discussed Delaney’s next political move since even before his last day as mayor in 2018. He’s routinely been shortlisted for higher office in the media. But his aspirations are scaled back now.
Perhaps for the best.
There is a gap between the anodyne quotes people give on Delaney in the public sphere and the backbiting that emerges off the record. Jacksonville is very much an “invisible primary” town when it comes to runs for higher office. If Delaney were inclined to chase one of 2018’s brass rings, he wouldn’t have favorite son status universally. He would raise money, but there are those in Northeast Florida who would torpedo any serious play he attempted to make.
Good ol’ boy mentality — It wouldn’t take a gender studies specialist to note one irony in the Jacksonville City Council President’s race between current VP John Crescimbeni and Finance Chair Anna Brosche.
As we reported, Crescimbeni came out of a pledge meeting this week with five new commitments — putting him more than halfway to the 10 pledges needed to secure the top job.
However, the meeting was interesting for other reasons. A room full of older men, talking about how “tradition” dictated that Crescimbeni, a councilman for most of his adult life, move to the presidency, with a female candidate upbraided for usurping said tradition.
The implication from Councilman Bill Gulliford was that the Mayor’s office and the Jax Chamber wanted Brosche in the presidency.
Brosche had her say, via the Florida Times-Union, noting Crescimbeni failed to earn “sweeping support” in his victory for vice president last year.
“Jacksonville is a city on the move, and as voters have shown all across the country, they are ready for new ways of leadership,” she wrote.
Brosche wanted a clean race without personal effrontery. However, this contest started off with a brushback pitch. She’s going to have to stand and deliver in kind.
People call her soft, behind her back. She must prove them wrong ASAP.
Southern Strategy Group adds former Rick Scott staffer — Lobbying mega-firm Southern Strategy Group announced this week that Amanda Trussell has been brought on board to handle the administrative needs of the firm’s Jacksonville office, and will also work on research projects, marketing efforts and other client-based support activities.
Trussell was previously the director of scheduling for Gov. Scott. Before that, she worked as an intern for Sen. Aaron Bean and former Rep. Erik Fresen.
“I’m grateful to Governor Scott for affording me the opportunity to serve in his administration, and I look forward to continue supporting his agenda of bringing job growth to Florida from the private sector,” she said. “Southern Strategy Group is a top tier firm with an amazing list of clients and advocates. I couldn’t be more excited to return to my hometown and begin a new chapter of my career with this great team.”
Instagram of the Week