Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jay Fant is in his last Legislative Session, and he’s carrying and co-sponsoring a number of hot-button bills.
Fant, one of a group of candidates running for Attorney General, discussed those bills with Florida Politics this week; among them, a bill he’s co-sponsoring that prohibits sanctuary jurisdictions — a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
Fant has been traveling the state campaigning and talking to county Republican parties, and he says that people see the existence of sanctuary cities as a “true affront to the sensibilities of normal folks,” places that “incubate illegal behavior.”
Florida doesn’t have sanctuary cities, even as some politicians — such as St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman — have expressed an affinity for the concept.
Fant sees the bill as heading off the potential for Florida to become California, a de facto sanctuary state. And he wonders why the Senate is “recalcitrant” in moving a bill.
Currently, the Senate version, carried by Northeast Florida’s Aaron Bean, is stalled out in Judiciary.
Fant predicts that the “heat will be on … a lot of pressure will be on the Senate” to move a bill through to the Governor’s desk.
Fant also discussed a couple of bills he introduced.
Fant’s HB 1359 (the “Soldiers’ and Heroes’ Monuments and Memorials Protection Act”) contends that any wartime monument erected after 1822 on public property may only be moved for its repair or the repair of the property containing it.
If a monument is to be “sold or repurposed,” it is to be placed somewhere of “equal prominence” as the original location. This subjective criterion may be a stumbling block for this measure in committee.
Willful defacement of a monument: a third-degree felony.
The bill’s chief imports: forestalling removal of Confederate monuments, as happened most recently in Memphis. And establishing criminal penalties for tampering, which would supersede the ordinance code or enforcement inclinations of rogue municipalities.
Fant’s hometown Jacksonville dealt with a Confederate monument removal debate in 2017; Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche took a position in favor of moving monuments to museums, as they divided the community.
Fant spotlighted Brosche’s “big policy statement” on the bill as fomenting “unnecessary division” in the community, leading him to file the bill.
As well, Fant notes that while the “War Between the States” is the current war that people want to de-memorialize Confederate actors in, such logic could apply to a different war in the future.
These bills, along with Fant’s “Free Enterprise Protection Act”, are “top of mind things that people feel passionate about,” Fant said.
The Jacksonville Republican, who carried more technical bills in his previous sessions, clearly has become more comfortable with hot-button issues as his Legislative career comes to a close.