In Northeast Florida, Rob Bradley has a lot of pull. One of the most powerful Senators in the state, with a PAC to match, a measure of Bradley’s esteem is that he was chosen to carry the ball on the Lenny Curry plan to defray the unfunded liability of public pensions with a half-cent sales tax.
In a conversation Friday, we got his take on the progress so far of the pension bill that he introduced (now co-sponsored by Aaron Bean), the future of medical marijuana in this session and this year, and his political future.
Consistent with what Bradley told us this month, the pension bill “remains a heavy lift.”
“As any bill travels this process, ornaments get added,” Bradley said.
He added that he is “comfortable” with the bill in its current iteration.
When asked about the exchange between Jacksonville Fire Union chief Randy Wyse and Jeff Brandes, in which the union head disagreed with the Senator about the acceptability of a “defined contribution“ plan for new hires, Bradley said that and “other issues will be revealed as the bill goes through the process.”
His take is that defined contribution or defined benefit, it ultimately should be a local decision.
However, Bradley’s support for the sales tax extension is resolute, as it allows a “local government to maintain flexibility” and “in the case of Jacksonville, local government is looking for a tool that they can use to solve the unfunded liability problem.”
Jacksonville’s situation is unique, Bradley said, because it contains 25 percent of the state’s unfunded liability, a “particular and peculiar problem.”
Bradley is glad to see Jacksonville working to address this issue.
Moving to the topic of medical marijuana and the state’s slow implementation of the Compassionate Cannabis Act of 2014, Bradley is “extremely frustrated.”
“In 2016 these families have not received the relief they were promised,” Bradley said.
That said, Bradley is “pleased that the Department of Health has chosen five dispensing organizations,” and that “all five are prepared to move forward.”
Senator Bradley takes the long view on medical marijuana, saying that “this is an issue that we’re going to deal with as a state,” one that requires a “realistic” attitude.
Bradley noted that after the passage of the bill in 2014, he was approached by “terminally ill people on narcotics,” who thought that cannabis would be better for their conditions.
“These individuals are not criminals,” Bradley said, and that’s why he seeks to expand Right to Try legislation to include cannabis for the terminally ill.
One frustration Bradley has is rooted in the herb’s classification as a Schedule 1 narcotic.
“We have failed, as a society, to research cannabis. There was a long period when research wasn’t done,” Bradley said.
“My hope is that Florida becomes cutting edge on research,” Bradley said. The “science isn’t where it needs to be.”
Though Bradley is running for re-election, there are those throughout the state who wonder whether a run for statewide office is in the cards.
Right now, he said, the focus is on getting to know the new voters and counties in his district, which will happen after session.
Thoughts of anything beyond 2016 right now, Bradley said, are premature.