The Jax City Council ban on the use of cellphones during meeting is under siege, with a threat from Bill Gulliford that boiled down to pass my bill fixing it or face a rules challenge.
The Bill Gulliford bill included a measure prohibiting “electronic communications” from or to Council members related to legislation on the agenda during meetings, an attempt to liberalize the in-meeting cellphone ban of 2015 (one that has been flouted by Council members with alacrity and impunity).
The ban on cell phone use, which emerged in an abundance of caution, has had unforeseen consequences, with more than one Council member saying that it treats them like children and stops them from being able to receive emergency communications during and after meetings.
The texting measure, taken up first, was a substitute bill. Gulliford noted that it “defines and clarifies what we really want to do,” and it was supported by the Ethics Commission. Disclosure of communications related to the agenda would have to happen also. Gulliford observed that lobbyists would cease the practice, which unduly influenced the Safety Officer allocation in the budget process. Garrett Dennis pushed for deferral to let the bill “marinate”; Gulliford pushed back. The bill, it was revealed, would preclude responding to email during a Council meeting, which was a problem for John Crescimbeni, who uses public comment to respond to emails.
The bill was deferred, but not before Hazouri got a zinger in on Lenny Curry, saying the bill “wouldn’t be prudent.”
Gulliford wants his phone turned back on. If this doesn’t pass, Gulliford will challenge the rule.
In other bills…
2015-422 would allow Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees employees to participate in the general employees retirement fund, eliminating any other option; the bill was approved by Finance, and went through Rules with no discussion.
2015-683 addresses the same concept, with a Charter amendment codifying it and clearing up a loose end from the June pension agreement. It likewise sped through committee, with the alacrity of a lobbyist’s Lexus hurtling down I-10 toward Tallahassee.