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Jacksonville Bold for 1.17.20 — Gearing up for Session

Soon enough, the jockeying for position begins.

Gearing up for Session

The Duval County legislative delegation is now eight members strong.

Two Senators, six state Representatives. Five Republicans, three Democrats (even as most call one of those Democrats a DINO).

Each legislator has a bit of tenure. Most of the Representatives were elected in 2016. And the Senators are in their second terms.

Another year for the delegation.

Soon enough, the jockeying for position begins.

Smart money sees Reps. Tracie Davis and Kim Daniels vying for Sen. Audrey Gibson’s Senate seat. Davis is Gibson’s choice. Daniels is the choice of Jacksonville’s Republican Mayor.

That will be a lively contest.

Likewise, expect several state Reps. to battle for Sen. Aaron Bean’s seat when he is termed out.

Reps. Cord Byrd, Clay Yarborough, and Jason Fischer will be in the discussion.

None of that starts this year. However, the scrum will begin soon enough.

Until then, however, a look at the next 60 days … a time thus far devoid of big-ticket asks from the city of Jacksonville, which had previously (when Rick Scott was Governor) been successful getting money for the Hart Bridge demolition and support for changes to city pensions.

Without that obvious local hook, each member of the delegation (beyond the usual small-ball sprinkle list items) is left to freestyle.

And the results are, in most cases, interesting for one reason or another.

For those looking for an audio complement to this week’s Bold, consider our own A.G. Gancarski, who was on the Why You Should Care podcast last week.

Gancarski goes through many of the bills, and the interpersonal dynamics, of the always interesting Duval delegation.

Aaron Bean

The state Senator who represents all of Nassau and some of Duval has an eclectic agenda for 2020.

Organ donation is being targeted by Aaron Bean, Jason Fischer.

One bill he is carrying, along with Fischer, aims at organ transplant discrimination.

Disabled people, amazingly, are often not permitted transplants. The Bean bill would change that.

Bean also has some refiles this Session, including a bill that would adjust retroactive eligibility for nonpregnant Medicaid applicants to the first day of the month in which they applied.

Last year, Bean noted this affected a small population of applicants.

Savings with these changes could approach $100 million annually, $40 million of that being state general revenue money.

“We’ll go back to the first day of the month [after] the applicant applies,” Bean said last year about this proposed policy change. “Nothing in this bill affects eligibility.”

Audrey Gibson

The Senate Minority Leader is helping to marshal her caucus’s response to year two of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Sen. Audrey Gibson ready for her final 60 days of leading the Democratic caucus.

However, beyond those more sweeping initiatives, she also has legislation closer to home.

One such bill is something she has been carrying for years (along with Davis): a petition for financial relief for the Fairfax Street Wood Treaters.

The plant, per the claims bill, used chromated copper arsenate to treat wood from 1980 to 2010.

Employees of the plant were subject to “excessive, persistent and prolonged” exposure to arsenic, because of what the bill calls a “catastrophic failure” of oversight from the state Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Health and Department of Financial Services.

These employees got neither training nor protective gear, per the bill, nor guidance on how to avoid arsenic.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency was pressured by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as far back as 2010 to move on this. The project has been on the EPA radar since, and testing in March 2018 revealed arsenic-contaminated soil. The soil at the nearby Susie E. Tolbert Elementary School is being cleaned up, the Feds assert.

Cord Byrd

The Beaches-area lawmaker, one of several in the state House eyeing his next political move, has a couple of deeply interesting and potentially consequential bills.

Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Cord Byrd in Nassau County last year.

Byrd established a statewide reputation for his push against Sanctuary cities last year, and this year he will continue to burnish those policy chops.

His most meaningful bill (HB 1265) may be a proposed compromise on E-Verify, the citizenship employment verification that business groups hate but immigration restrictionists want.

Byrd’s bill would require government employers and contractors to use the system, but private employers, such as agriculture, would be exempt.

Byrd also is ready to “take the gloves off and act” when it comes to fighting foreign narco-terrorist groups.

To that end, he filed a memorial, urging the federal government to designate drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.

Byrd, a second-term Republican from Jacksonville Beach, was unsparing in describing the havoc wreaked by these groups.

“Drug cartels are directly responsible for not only the drugs pouring across our southern border, but also for human trafficking, sex trafficking, corruption, murder, and gang activity in the United States. The federal government has the tools to directly interdict these threats,” Byrd claimed.

Clay Yarborough

The Southside Jacksonville Republican (and former Jacksonville City Council President) has one bill that already is getting wide attention.

Rep. Clay Yarborough debates on House floor.

He is the House sponsor of legislation (HB 319) that would create a legislative “Guide to a Healthy Marriage.”

This has been filed before.

“A number of bills do not make it through the process the year they are first filed. This is an important priority, and I will be pushing hard to get it through the process,” Yarborough said.

The publication would address “conflict management, communication skills, family expectations, financial responsibilities and management, domestic violence resources, and parenting responsibilities.”

“Promoting healthy marriages and families in Florida should be a priority for all of us. When the bill was filed previously, groups came forward who supported the idea of additional information to go alongside the Florida Family Law Handbook,” Yarborough noted.

“Since 1998 and continuing today under current law, acknowledgment by couples that access was provided to the handbook is a prerequisite to receiving a marriage license in Florida. The Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage would be made available as additional information, not be mandated,” the Jacksonville legislator added.

Tracie Davis

The Jacksonville Democrat is running point for a budget request for one of the city’s showcase venues.

Rep. Tracie Davis is carrying an approps request with Southern Group lobbying.

HB 3871, the “Florida Theatre Expansion Project,” contemplates $636,000 for continued improvements in the facility.

Rep. Davis is carrying the bill, while The Southern Group’s Matt Brockelman is handling the lobbying effort.

Why’s the money needed? Well, part of the reason is the evolution from a movie theater (the building’s original function) to a community space.

“A planned expansion to the Theatre will join the second-floor lobby to the second floor of the adjoining office building to create 3,000 sq, ft. of new public space for receptions, programming and rentals. It will help the Theatre to expand their community offerings with the space needed to hold arts-based programs and classes to students of all ages.”

Per the approps request, the money will lead to cultural enrichment.

“Our goal is to reach every corner of the Northeast Florida community on an annual basis … This includes new and emerging artists, racially and ethnically diverse artists, and artistically diverse performers, all presented at a scale not otherwise being served in this market. With more space, we can also hold family and children’s events and classes without needing to open the theater reaching even more people.”

Kim Daniels

Daniels, the chair of the Duval delegation — and evangelist by trade — is poised to get more attention for efforts that address the intersection of government and religion again in 2020.

Rep. Kim Daniels is bringing Bible study, a moment of silence bills.

HB 341 would require — rather than just permit, as is the case now — high schools to offer an “objective study of religion.”

Each school would be required to offer such classes, covering the Old Testament, the New Testament and Hebrew Scriptures.

HB 737 would require public school principals to compel teachers to offer time for silent reflection at the beginning of the school day.

This proposal would replace the current statute, which calls for a “brief meditation period.”

Daniels is atypical among Florida Democrats in her focus on religious instruction. Though her party often questions such, she is a favorite of Republicans.

Wyman Duggan

Duggan, a freshman Republican from Jacksonville’s Westside, has a local bill of definite interest to his district.

Rep. Wyman Duggan looks at a local issue this year.

HB 417 would end a long-standing and frustrating practice: vessels lingering in the Ortega and Cedar Rivers.

At issue: “several vessels, maybe a dozen … creating problems for residents, boaters and the city,” Duggan told Florida Politics last year.

These boats create a variety of issues. Boat owners often don’t take their vessels to the marina to pump out waste, creating sewage discharges. Generators on the boats where some live hum into the night. And of course, hazards to navigation abound.

Duggan stressed the importance of taking action while the vessel is still afloat. Costs can be a tenth of the $20,000 to 30,000 threshold for removing a sunk ship.

To that end, the Representative seeks to add this “mooring limitation area” to existing statute regarding “densely populated urban areas, which have narrow state waterways, residential docking facilities, and significant recreational boating traffic.”

Bean will carry the Senate version of the bill.

Jason Fischer

The second-term Republican from the Southside is carrying a full load of challenging bills.

Rep. Jason Fischer will carry an ambitious slate in 2020.

One such piece of legislation: HB 1011, a bill that would preempt local regulations on short-term rentals, leaving the regulatory authority with the state.

The Jacksonville Legislator also seeks to expand the use of drones with a bill (HB 659) that would allow state agencies, such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, to use the uncrewed aircraft over swamps and other people-free places where invasive species and other nuisances have proved problematic.

Fischer is also carrying a local bill that would allow Duval County voters to decide in 2020 whether they want an elected School Superintendent.

If the bill (HB 1079) passes and the referendum is successful, the position would become elected in 2022.

Read more here.

JAXPORT helping small biz

Are you a small-business person looking to help your company grow? JAXPORT is here to help.

JAXPORT is offering free training and networking for small-business owners.

The Jacksonville Port Authority is hosting its second annual Small Business Appreciation Day, Feb. 4, at the JAXPORT Cruise Terminal.

The event is open to all Northeast Florida Small and Emerging Businesses for free education and networking.

Highlights include a Procurement Directors panel, “Put me in the Game Coach” professional coaching session to help businesses create their own 90-second business pitch, speed networking and more.

Interested parties should RSVP here by January 31.

Small Business Appreciation Day is Tuesday, Feb. 4, 8 a.m. — 3:30 p.m., JAXPORT Cruise Terminal, 9810 August Drive, Jacksonville.

DeFilippo moving on 

The Jaguars had every reason to believe they had the right pieces to improve their offense dramatically. They put up millions for a Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Nick Foles from Philadelphia, a recommitted Leonard Fournette at running back, a healthier offensive line and a new offensive coordinator.

John DeFilippo had worked with Foles before during the glory days in Philadelphia, and he was expected to jump-start an offense that could help Jacksonville contend at least for a playoff spot. The first wheel of the Jags’ offense fell off when Foles went down during the second quarter of the first game.

Jaguars and John DeFilippo have parted ways. Could he return as Eagles offensive coordinator?

After the team tumbled to a 6-10 record, changes were inevitable, and DeFilippo became one of the casualties. He and the Jaguars “mutually” parted ways this week, but it is a kind way to say he was fired. DeFilippo was the next high profile name to exit following the departure of Tom Coughlin, the head of player personnel.

The offense and the team showed some life soon after sixth-round draft choice Gardner Minshew stepped in following Foles’ injury. The come-from-behind win in Denver solidified Minshew’s cult status and gave false hope that he could step in and lead the team to the postseason.

While the team improved from 27th to 20th in total offense, more was expected. DeFilippo’s fate may have been sealed when Foles returned from injury and was ineffective, prompting a return to fan-favorite Minshew.

Perhaps Foles could be shipped out if the Jaguars could find a team willing to take on his salary. Chicago, with their championship-caliber defense but woeful quarterback play, is one team that might have an interest. Foles led the Eagles over the Bears in the 2018 playoffs.

It will be an interesting offseason. One of the first orders of business is to hire a new offensive coordinator, which will be the Jags’ third in three seasons.

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