A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 334

A.G. Gancarski

John Peyton chosen Jax Chamber chair-elect

Former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton is poised to soon have a new public visibility, as the JAX Chamber announced Wednesday his election as chair-elect.

Peyton served as mayor of Jacksonville from 2003 to 2011; since his mayoralty, he has not been politically prominent, except for a strong endorsement of Lenny Curry in 2015.

Darnell Smith, the current chair of the Chamber, has taken a high-profile role in marshaling support for Jacksonville’s proposed expansion of its Human Rights Ordinance.

Also announced: the 2017 JAX Chamber Board of Directors, which includes a number of community luminaries, including several of the most relevant political figures in Jacksonville.

On the board: Jacksonville City Council President Lori Boyer; Curry’s Chief of Staff, Kerri Stewart; former Mayor John Delaney; Duval County School Board Chair Paula Wright.

A complete list of members and professional affiliations is below:

·       Ken Babby, Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp

·       Kathy Barco Jossim, Barco-Duval Engineering

·       Rosa Beckett, Jacksonville Aviation Authority

·       Sarah Bermudez, Workscapes

·       Cynthia Bioteau, Florida State College at Jacksonville

·       John Bottaro, RS&H

·       Hon. Lori Boyer, Jacksonville City Council

·       Michael Brannigan, Suddath Relocation Systems

·       Michelle Braun, United Way of Northeast Florida

·       Lathun Brigman, Beaver Street Fisheries Inc.

·       Henry Brown, Miller Electric Company

·       Debbie Buckland, BB&T

·       Ed Burr, GreenPointe Holdings LLC

·       Mike Butler, JPMorgan Chase

·       Rose Conry, StaffTime

·       Tim Cost, Jacksonville University

·       Sandy Coston, GuideWell Source

·       Ben Davis, Intuition Ale Works

·       Daniel Davis, JAX Chamber

·       John Delaney, University of North Florida

·       Wally Devlin, Rimrock Companies

·       Ray Driver, Driver, McAfee, Peek & Hawthorne, P.L.

·       Paula Drum, Interline Brands

·       Roseann Duran, Web.com

·       Gianrico Farrugia, Mayo Clinic

·       Nathaniel Ford, Jacksonville Transportation Authority

·       Nat Glover, Edward Waters College

·       April Green, Bethel Baptist Institutional Church

·       Eric Green, JAXPORT

·       Dane Grey, Elite Parking Services of America

·       Abel Harding, IBERIABANK

·       Micah Heavener, Citi

·       RDML Mary Jackson, Navy Region Southeast

·       Barbara Johnston, Regency Centers Corporation

·       Quintin Kendall, CSX Corporation

·       Mark Lamping, Jacksonville Jaguars Ltd.

·       Thomas Lee, Lee & Cates Glass Inc.

·       Eric Mann, YMCA of Florida’s First Coast

·       Paul McElroy, JEA

·       David Miller, Brightway Insurance

·       Audrey Moran, Baptist Health

·       Dan Murphy, Fidelity National Financial Inc.

·       Donna Orender, Orender Unlimited / Generation W

·       Brian Parks, SunTrust Bank North Florida

·       John Peyton, GATE Petroleum Company

·       Jared Rice, THE PLAYERS Championship

·       Jamie Shelton, bestbet Jacksonville

·       Peter Shen, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care

·       Misty Skipper, GATE Petroleum Company

·       Leslie Slover, Deutsche Bank

·       Greg Smith, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

·       Darnell Smith, Florida Blue

·       Kelly Smith, Wells Fargo

·       Scott Snyder, Compass Consulting Group

·       Kerri Stewart, City of Jacksonville, Mayor’s Office

·       Cindy Stover, TD Bank

·       Ellen Sullivan, The BairFind Foundation

·       Tyra Tutor, Adecco Group North America

·       Tom Van Berkel, The Main Street America Group

·       Tom VanOsdol, St. Vincent’s HealthCare

·       Tim Volpe, Adams and Reese LLP

·       Denise Wallace, BCM Services

·       Nina Waters, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida

·       Terry West, VyStar Credit Union

·       Jeff Whitson, TECO Peoples Gas

·       Hon. Paula Wright, Duval County School Board

Foreclosure action filed on Jacksonville councilor’s troubled family business

How much longer can a Jacksonville city councilwoman, whose family businesses have bombshell news reports every couple of days for failure to pay debts, stay on the council’s Finance Committee?

That’s the question in Jacksonville right now, as the saga of the family businesses of Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown continues to move from sauce to loss.

On Tuesday, a foreclosure action was filed in Duval County by Florida Capital Bank on a property associated with “KJB Specialties.”

Councilwoman Brown is a managing partner of KJB.

The property, located at 1551 W. Edgewood Avenue, corresponds to the location of “Jerome Brown BBQ.”

KJB owes $100,902 on its note.


This latest six-figure legal action continues a train of financial woes for Councilwoman Brown’s family businesses.

Last month, Ameris Bank moved for a Summary Judgment against KJB Specialties.

Back in 2007, KJB Specialties borrowed $50,000 from Ameris Bank. Payments were made as agreed until March 2015, during the time when Councilwoman Brown was running for office.

However, as the councilwoman’s electoral and political fortunes rose, KJB went AWOL on its loan and other financial obligations.

Principals were informed of the default in August 2015, and the impending legal action a month thereafter.

Now the bank demands what is due: a $37,490 principal; $1,399 of interest; $253.40 in late charges; and $7,681 in legal fees.


KJB Specialties was also in the news in January for warrants incurred for failure to pay sales tax.

Another Brown business, “Basic Products, LLC,” likewise was in the news for failure to pay sales tax.

These are, alas, the tip of the iceberg.

The base of that iceberg: a $640,000 economic development agreement to build a barbeque sauce plant.

The deal was initially struck between the city and KJB Specialties. However, for reasons unknown to anyone beyond the Browns, KJB handed the deal off to another Brown business with a nebulous name (“CoWealth, LLC”) and no apparent purpose beyond providing a financing mechanism devoid of tangible product or economic utility.

The city has been taking progressively more direct action in attempting to clawback some of its squandered seed money.

On January 5, a Certified Letter was sent from Jacksonville’s Office of Economic Development to CoWealth, LLC, related to the company failing to create the jobs it was supposed to.

The letter that the city received the “required annual surveys” for 2012 to 2015, in which the company was supposed to create jobs at the Northwest Jacksonville barbecue sauce plant location on Commonwealth Avenue.

These surveys were due long before Jan. 5. And there seemed to be a good reason to delay sending them in.

OED said CoWealth created no jobs; zero falls somewhat short of the 56 jobs agreed to.

“Therefore, the full balance of the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund grant, $210,549.99, must be repaid.”

OED wanted payment in full within 60 days of the letter.

It seems the city’s Office of Economic Development may have to get in line behind other creditors.

We checked with the city of Jacksonville this week, and no movement has been made from the KJB/CoWealth side.

January came and went with almost daily stories about the problems with KJB and CoWealth.

It doesn’t look like February will be much different, as it is clear that the loans and grants from private and public stakeholders have been squandered, with no tangible outcome for any investor.


Jacksonville protest of Donald Trump sees protesters protesting

There is something comfortingly familiar about a protest in Jacksonville, and Tuesday afternoon’s anti-Donald Trump protest was no exception.

The chants heard at the Duval County Courthouse were, at least many of them, heard before.

At this point, “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” has been workshopped repeatedly in the Jacksonville DMA, and may have peaked in terms of market saturation.

The chant was a standby on Tuesday, a refrain as familiar as “Whoot, there it is.”

New for this event: “Say it loud, say it clear; refugees are welcome here,” an obvious reference to the banning of travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, of which the majority (Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and the Sudan) could be said to be failed states.

At the very least, none of these countries are models for the 21st century.

The speakers, likewise, were familiar — and very likable.

Perennials, such as Wells ToddChevara Orrin, and Dr. Parvez Ahmed, spoke.

Ahmed gave money to the primary campaign of Rep. John Rutherford ahead of the GOP Primary last year because, he said, Rutherford was a friend, and because the rest of the field was even worse.

The University of North Florida professor spoke of Rutherford and his political ally, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, having given in to a “bully” by offering support for the travel and immigration ban from the White House.

The speakers used a less-than-audible megaphone to address the crowd for over an hour — a group of 200, give or take, who stood in a circle around them.

Many of the crowd members held up signs, creating the inevitable reality of those trying to listen to the message on the mike being distracted by a face full of poster board if they wanted to hear the messages.

The sign holders didn’t mind, of course. Toward the end of the event, when a speaker called for all Muslims to come up to the front, two college-aged women, holding up signs, began jumping up and down like they’d been selected to appear on the Price Is Right.

And cameras? Lord, yes, there were cameras.

Every TV station showed, as did the Florida Times-Union, and the coverage was earnest and respectful.

But in that coverage, something was lost: namely, the quixotic nature of going to a local courthouse to protest a national policy.

The local clerk of courts, the local chief judge, and so on — they had nothing to do with Trump’s travel ban.

As the sun began its descent, the protest began to move.

A quick trip to the federal courthouse; because it was already past 5:00, and because a politician didn’t have a hearing that day, there was no one there to see the crowd move.


From there, the protest moved to the front steps of Jacksonville’s city hall, also largely bereft of pols and those who work for them at that point in the day.

That backdrop created the most compelling imagery of the whole event, with the protesters voices echoing through the recessed entry way on the front of the St. James Building, as the two or three security guards who normally work the metal detector came out to look at the spectacle.

However, there were missed opportunities.

If the protest, at that point, was targeting the mayor, then why not issue specific grievances toward his agenda?

Certainly, the attendees all had them.

The ineluctable answer: protests in Jacksonville, for the most part, are localized reactions to national actions. And this was no different.

Mayor Curry’s embrace of the Trump travel ban from those seven countries, out of context, is more shocking than it is when considered in context.

The Republican mayor of a resource starved city, and a former party chair who understands his role as building Jacksonville’s relationship with the White House after eight years in which the Jacksonville mayor and the president didn’t interface, Curry has practical reasons for supporting the White House position — which, say many, is not a complete 180 from travel restrictions and moratoriums in previous administrations.

Additionally, Curry has an affinity for Donald Trump himself.

The mayor appreciates the president’s swagger, and when this outlet asked him about the executive order rollout last weekend, Curry said he didn’t want to talk about the process.

Curry actually defended the Trump administration: ““The intent of the administration is mired in the bureaucracy of big federal government.”

An interesting spin, and one that delineates emotional investment in the outcome.


Protests in this country seem to come and go depending on who is in the White House. In that sense, these outpourings of populist angst are time-sensitive.

There were many protests of American foreign military actions during the Bush 41 and Bush 43 administrations. However, despite the fact that the United States was active militarily on a global level during the Clinton and Obama administrations, the protests mysteriously abated.

In that sense, the protest trend is almost like the comedy of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, each of whom became a lot less funny after Inauguration Day 2009, and never quite recovered.

There is plenty of cause for local action for progressives.

The city’s Democratic Party is about as effective as its public schools.

Many of the Democrats on the city council have more affinity with their district churches and donors than with a progressive platform. Beyond the HRO expansion bill, the only other progressive piece of legislation to be considered lately is Councilman Garrett Dennis filing a bill to fund a position authorized last decade, one which would attempt to ensure equal employment opportunity for underrepresented minority groups.

Meanwhile, the impact of social conservatives is disproportionately felt. And, point of fact, arguably the biggest social conservative in Jacksonville politics is Democratic state representative, Kim Daniels.

On a local level, working through the churches, social conservatives mobilize votes and they scare the hell out of politicians.

Whether one agrees with their viewpoints or not, the folks on the right are formidable opponents, who understand how to leverage their power into legislative action.

The progressive movement in Jacksonville may have been newly “woke” by Donald Trump.

The question the stakeholders will have to consider: is protesting national policies its best use of time, or should the focus be on driving specific, targeted legislative action and pressure to counter the institutional inequities and shortcomings that compelled them to their political positions in the first place?

Duval Delegation talks local bills, hears from Melissa Nelson

There are three local bills that the Duval County Legislative Delegation have to carry this session.

Two of them involve relaxed restrictions for drinking.

Rep.  Tracie Davis will sponsor those.

And one involves governance of the Duval County School Board, a subject that inspires drinking.

Rep. Jason Fischer, an alumnus of the school board, will sponsor that one.

The local bill involving the school board would amend Florida statute so that the vote of the Duval County School Board chair would not break a tie. In 2006, the Legislature adopted a measure for Orange County that dictated that, in counties with between 800,000 and 900,000 people, the school board chair’s vote breaks the tie. That rule does not suit Duval County stakeholders.

Board member Scott Shine noted that a tied 2-2 vote led to curriculum adoption, a situation that is not ideal.

Jacksonville City Council President Lori Boyer noted that this measure, like the other local bills, had unanimous support.


The second local bill, “J-2”, asks for “special zones” in older neighborhoods, such as Murray Hill, Springfield, and San Marco, to lower the required seating for a restaurant serving liquor from 150 to 100, and space from 2,500 to 1,800 square feet.

The Legacy Restaurant Group owns properties in Springfield and Murray Hill, and backed this bill as good public policy initially. San Marco, a similar urban neighborhood, wanted in on this as well.

Boyer, a San Marco resident, affirmed the council support for the measure in light of the “historic character” of those buildings.

The delegation supported the measure with one exception: Rep. Clay Yarborough.


The third local bill waives open container restrictions on alcoholic beverage consumption within the A. Philip Randolph Entertainment District during “special events” involving the sports complex.

This bill occasioned discussion, with Sen. Audrey Gibson noting the proximity to a park and a building that once housed the Children’s Commission.

“I support the entertainment zone that y’all are trying to create,” Gibson said, but her concern is the proximity to the park, and she wanted to ensure the city council would tweak the bill accordingly.

Reps. Kim Daniels and Clay Yarborough voted against the measure.


Beyond the local bills, a number of speakers, including Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Schellenberg and 4th Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson, spoke up.

Schellenberg, a member of the Stand Up for Florida group, sought input and bills related to Amendment 1 funds being overly dedicated to South Florida.

Schellenberg noted that he’d like to see a bill similar to that Rob Bradley filed related to the Keystone Lakes.

Worth noting: the Bradley bill includes the potential of money that could go toward the St. Johns River and its tributaries, even as the Clay County freshwater lakes are the priority.

Nelson received what could be called a very friendly budget from the governor today, with a million dollars extra year over year — which is the biggest increase of any of the judicial circuits

That money is largely earmarked for salaries; the budget “encouraged” Nelson, who urged “positive consideration” from the delegation.

In her remarks, Nelson spoke to her desire for a “conviction integrity unit,” which would “reduce errors in the administration of justice” and “work to rebuild trust in the community.”

Nelson also spoke of a “standstill” in capital punishment cases, noting that her “office will have a system in place to review those cases” going forward.

As Nelson told us earlier in January, she will be the final arbiter of a capital case, after a consideration by a panel.

“No longer will a sole prosecutor have the discretion to pursue capital punishment,” Nelson said. “Ultimately, I will be the one who makes that decision.

Nelson also spoke to her office’s commitment to fight human trafficking and defend human rights, via a division focused on human trafficking issues.

Gang violence is also a priority; the SAO will formulate “proactive and unique” strategies to fight it.

Nelson also stated her desire to start an Attorney and Community Development division, to “be engaged in a new way in our communities.”

As well, diversion programs are another focus of Nelson’s office.

Jacksonville sheriff backs Lenny Curry’s pension reform proposal

A message from Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams to the Fraternal Order of Police was conveyed Tuesday: take the city’s pension deal.

Jacksonville has been in the process of renegotiating the pension plans of all of its unions, but police and fire have offered the most urgency.

The real sticking point, beyond finding an appropriate level of raises for current employees: benefits for new hires.

The public safety unions want inclusion for new hires in the FRS defined benefit plan, which may be an option foreclosed to them as soon as this legislative session in Tallahassee.

The city’s proposal includes a 25 percent match on defined-contribution plans for new hires, with death and disability benefits comparable to those under the defined benefit plan currently in place, and raises for all current employees.

Last Wednesday, the city sweetened the pot, offering an extended term of a labor agreement — effectively a seven-year deal, with terms revisited at three, six, and seven-year intervals — provided that it meets certain conditions.

As well, in place of Social Security, a mechanism was floated to offer annuity accounts paralleling the DC plans.

Sheriff Williams told us Tuesday that was a good deal.

“The deal that we have on the table here is a good deal.  I am in favor of what the mayor’s putting on the table, and I’m encouraging everybody to take a hard look at it,” Williams said.

Even though the deal is defined contribution, Williams asserted that “there’s plenty in that deal that protects the members.”

“It’s not your normal 401K by any stretch,” the sheriff added, “and I think the mayor has shown his commitment to us by putting a deal on the table.”

The unions and the city negotiate again on Feb. 8.

Rick Scott talks public safety budget with Florida Sheriffs

It was High Noon in Jacksonville on Tuesday when Gov. Rick Scott got on the microphone at the winter meeting of the Florida Sheriffs at the Hyatt Hotel.

Gov. Scott had a message to deliver, just hours after unveiling a budget with public safety enhancements.

Scott’s new budget earmarks $5.1 billion for public safety, including a $14.6 million spend on 5 percent pay raises for Florida’s law enforcement officers, $5.8 million to FDLE to hire 46 counterterrorism employees, and $45 million to boost correctional officers’ pay.

The budgets for both corrections and public safety, meanwhile, see year over year increases — though nothing dramatic.

The corrections budget increased by $126 million year over year, with 327 new positions in a $2.53 billion corrections budget.

The law enforcement budget increased by approximately $5 million since 2016, coming in at $302 million, with 51 positions added.

Scott noted that the current budget allows for upgrades in counterterrorism, pay raises for correctional workers, and “other things” that will arise during the session.

Tourists wouldn’t come to Florida, Scott said, if they didn’t feel safe — a product of effective law enforcement.

“The most important thing we can do,” Scott said, “is keep everybody safe.”

Much of what Scott said was familiar to those who listen to him regularly.

But for the sheriffs, who greeted him and bade him farewell with a standing ovation, that was enough.

Anti-Defamation League backs expanded Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance

Though some religious organizations, such as the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine, liken expanding Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance to the “darkest days of World War II,” other groups have different takes.

On Jan. 26, the Anti-Defamation League sent Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry a letter, urging Jacksonville to take a “leadership role by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the HRO.

In fact, the ADL claims the proposed ordinance — 2017-15 — doesn’t go far enough.

The “exemption for religious institutions and non-profit affiliated organizations appears to go well beyond the religious exemption found in analogous federal employment discrimination, public accommodations, and fair housing laws,” the ADL asserts.

The “religious exemption as currently written is overly broad,” the ADL adds.

The ADL also calls the allegations that the bill’s public accommodations requirement pose a threat to public safety “completely unfounded,” especially in light of extant state laws prohibiting assault, molestation, et al.

The controversy over the proposed expansion of the HRO continues this week, with a press conference in Jacksonville’s city hall opposing expansion Tuesday afternoon, followed up by a Thursday “public notice” meeting on the topic.

Pushback emerges against bill closing FRS defined benefit plan to new cities

Jacksonville’s big legislative accomplishment in the 2016 session was getting an unprecedented bill through Tallahassee, one which would allow the city to access the guaranteed revenue from a future sales tax extension, once it closed one of its three pension plans.

As collective bargaining continues between the city and its unions, the 2017 session also looms. And another bill with potential bearing on Jacksonville’s pension perils awaits the Florida Legislature.

That bill, filed by Jeff Brandes in the Florida Senate and Jacksonville’s own Jason Fischer in the Florida House, would close the defined benefit plan of the Florida Retirement System to new cities.

“I believe the best way to start getting a handle on the growing unfunded state pension liability is to tackle the issue at the source. Closing this loophole to enter into the defined benefit pension plan in FRS will help the state of Florida begin the process of reconciling the out of control pension debt and put our state on a path towards fiscal responsibility,” stated Rep, Fischer upon filing the bill.

A question that is emerging, however: does the Fischer/Brandes legislation subvert the intent of the 2016 legislation that set the stage to conditionally close Jacksonville’s faltering defined benefit pension plans?


The police and fire unions believe so; their position has been to put new hires who are foreclosed from the city’s current DB plan into the FRS defined benefit plan, which was last estimated to be 85 percent funded and one of the healthiest state pension plans in the country.

Meanwhile, the sponsors of the 2016 legislation, Clay County’s Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings, had their own qualms with the FRS reform bills.

“The bill was clear,” Bradley said, “and I made several public statements at the time as the bill moved through the process.”

“The language of the bill was clear – that [new pension plan] is a local decision, what form the pension/retirement plan takes going forward. The only requirement of the bill is that you close existing plans and then you start anew if you want to avail yourself of those dollars,” Bradley added.

“What system is chosen by the city of Jacksonville using those dollars is a choice,” Bradley said, “to be made through collective bargaining.”

When asked if he supported the Fischer/Brandes reforms, Bradley was careful in responding.

“To the extent that those bills take options off the table, then in my mind that’s inconsistent with what we did last year,” Bradley said.

“What we did last year was say this is a local decision. They have a series of options available to them to choose. Then to go the next year, and say ‘we said that, but we don’t mean it. You have fewer options than you had last year,’ to me that would be inconsistent with what we did last year,” Bradley said.

When asked if the Fischer/Brandes bill was a “bait and switch,” Bradley laughed, saying that phrase was something he “would describe as inflammatory language.”

“But yeah, I made my statement on it,” the senator said.


Sen. Bradley, in what was an audacious play last year, carried the Senate version of the discretionary sales surtax bill through with a 35 to 1 vote of approval.

Bradley and Brandes, already slated to square off on the issue of medical marijuana expansion, look poised to be at odds on the FRS reform bill also.

Sen. Bradley’s concerns were echoed, albeit in abbreviated form, by Rep. Travis Cummings.

Cummings hadn’t seen the Fischer/Brandes bill, but after the terms were described to him, he said the terms were a “big concern.”

“I’d have a hard time supporting it,” Cummings said.

Cummings’ comments are notable in light of what he said to us in January 2016.

“History in the Florida Legislature does prove that there are philosophical differences between the House and Senate regarding traditional pension versus 401k type retirement plans. No doubt such will be a key part of the debate with our Senate partners. The train has left the station in the private sector in that pension plans are now dinosaurs due to insurmountable liabilities,” Cummings observed last year.


The concerns of legislators who don’t represent Jacksonville may not be such a concern … except for the fact that the Duval County Legislative Delegation didn’t carry the pension reform legislation in 2016.

The reasons for such were pragmatic: Cummings and Bradley had carried similar legislation before, and there wasn’t a sense of overwhelming enthusiasm to carry the bill from the local delegation.

While the local delegation did support the legislation, the lead was taken by the Republicans from Clay County.

As former Rep. Charles Van Zant, a House co-sponsor, said last May, “it was a good neighbor bill for us. Jacksonville turned to us to pass the bill,” and the “three of us spearheaded the initiative.”

Clay County delegation to focus on First Coast Expressway, Keystone Lakes

On Monday, the Clay County Legislative Delegation heard local concerns in Green Cove Springs, the county seat.

Sen. Rob Bradley, Rep. Travis Cummings, and Rep. Bobby Payne — the three members of the delegation  — heard from community advocates, stakeholders, and leaders.

Payne, of course, is new to the Florida Legislature — and has his district split among Clay, Putnam, and Bradford counties. However, all three legislators noted that collaboration among the trio is smooth.

Bradley encouraged attendees to pay attention to committees, as “the cake is pretty much baked” when session begins Mar. 7.

Meanwhile, the senator made it clear what the delegation was pushing toward.

“When I sat at this dais four years ago,” Bradley said, “the First Coast Expressway was not on the road to success.”

Now, said Bradley, “it’s getting to the point where that and the Shands Bridge [near] the point of no return.”

Bradley also urged focusing on the Keystone Lakes, rather than ancillary priorities, with a “revenue stream going forward to take care of our needs on the river, and take care of our needs on the lakes” via Amendment 1 funds.

“I’m not going to say we’re going to do it,” Bradley said, “but we’re going to try really hard.”

The First Coast Expressway, the river, and the Keystone Lake chain are “core issues … infrastructure issues,” Bradley said, that could resonate for decades to come.

Bradley, who introduced a bill on behalf of a Lake Okeechobee reservoir — a priority of Senate President Joe Negron — clearly has the long game in mind.

He made it clear that a priority of his was to ensure that everyone was on the same team.


Beyond those big picture issues, major stakeholders had some smaller-picture (though significant) concerns.

Wayne Bolla, chairman of the Clay Board of Commissioners, lauded the delegation for the veterans’ court and the progress on the First Coast Expressway, and asked for $500 million of funding to come through for that purpose and the replacement of the Shands Bridge (a request echoed by Green Cove Springs Mayor Pamela Lewis).

Bolla also lauded Bradley specifically for his bill requesting money for the Keystone Lakes project. He wasn’t alone,

Keystone Heights Mayor Tony Brown noted the city had water issues, including depleted lakes.

“We’d love to have a swimming pool in Keystone. But we’d rather have our lakes back,” Brown said.

The price of this is unknown, but the Keystone Heights city manager noted it would be “expensive.”

Rep. Cummings spoke to the importance of moving Amendment 1 dollars to North Florida projects.

“North Florida hasn’t gotten its fair share,” Cummings noted.

Rep. Payne, meanwhile, will be carrying the companion bill in the Florida House.

“We now have developed that as a team,” Bradley said, “and a game plan to move it forward.”


County departments also had their say.

Clay County Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless spotlighted his department’s key legislative issue: ERIC, an interstate voter registration program that “provides member states with a list of cross-state matches and in-state updates.”

Chambless noted that 717,000 voters have, according to Pew, moved to Florida but have not updated their records. And 233,000 voters are “outdated” in the files. Duplicate registrations and deceased voters also represent potential systemic glitches.

“We want to clean up the voter registration rolls,” Chambless said.

A second concern: removing personal information from pre-registered voters on the registration rolls. Specifically, he’d like to exempt those under the age of 18 from records retention.

Clay County School Superintendent Addison Davis had a laundry list of projects, in conjunction with other districts, he said.

One issue: “overassessing.”

Davis believes there is too much testing and not enough teacher support for the instruction of basic skills.

Third grade retention, identified by Davis as a “gatekeeper,” is now a state requirement, and should be a “local decision.”

Another issue: a desire to levy up to two mills for capital improvements in the district, especially related to technology needed for 1-to-1 devices and being “competitive with surrounding counties.”

Additionally, Davis wants “funding to create the best experiences and most robust experiences,” to counteract a 10 percent cut in revenue from the state.

“We know the state of Florida is 42nd in the nation,” Davis said, asking for the delegation’s help with getting more funding.

Clay County Clerk of Courts Tara Green said the office is “sinking,” with a “broken” funding model.

Sen. Bradley noted that “I’ve always resisted the idea of looking at how much money you bring in to determine how much you can spend,” with regard to the seeming pressure Green feels to make the office revenue-neutral or turn a profit.

Al Lawson, John Rutherford disagree on executive order for travel ban from Muslim countries

While the twists and turns of U.S. President Donald Trump‘s executive order instilling a ban on refugees and nationals of seven majority Muslim countries coming into the United States continue, one Northeast Florida lawmaker supports what Trump is doing.

Meanwhile, another opposes the Trump position.

Rep. John Rutherford supports increased vetting of people from certain nations, even as he indicated an interest in having the United States Congress take a role in figuring out a system going forward.

“The United States has been and will continue to be a nation of immigrants that welcomes people from around the world that love this land.  But we must protect our citizens first and foremost by ensuring that we keep would-be terrorists from exploiting our visa and refugee programs,” Rutherford told us Sunday night.

“I support increased vetting of travelers from countries that are known sponsors and harbors of terrorism, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to strengthen our vetting of foreign travelers,” Rutherford said.

We asked Rep. Rutherford whether more countries, such as Saudi Arabia, should be added to the list, and for the Jacksonville Republican, expanding the list indeed is possible.

His Chief of Staff, Kelly Simpson, described the Rutherford position as follows.

“Congressman Rutherford believes our vetting processes as a whole need to be reevaluated, and as these new vetting procedures are implemented,” Simpson said, “we must continue to monitor terror activity in additional countries to determine if they too need be subject to stronger vetting.”

Notable: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry likewise supports the Trump executive order.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle: Rutherford’s Jacksonville colleague, Democratic Rep. Al Lawson, does not support President Trump’s executive order, according to his chief of staff, Tola Thompson.

Lawson amplified his stance on Monday.

“I am disappointed by this Executive Order because it goes against everything this country stands for. I can think of few things more un-American than discriminating against people seeking refuge on our shores because of their religion. This action betrays who we are as a country. Keeping the American people safe from threats from abroad is very important to me but targeting an entire religion is completely misguided and irresponsible,” Lawson posted to Facebook.

“This order dishonors our values and has caused shockwaves of confusion throughout our nation. America is the land of opportunity regardless of age, race, class and religion. I will continue to work for smart action to protect our borders while protecting religious freedom and defending our American values,” Lawson added

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