- 2021 Legislative Session
- Aaron Bean
- Al Ferraro
- Angie Nixon
- Audrey Gibson
- Clay Yarborough
- Cord Byrd
- Featured Post
- Jacksonville Bold
- Jennifer Bradley
- Matt Carlucci
- Mike Williams
- Nat Ford
- Nikki Fried
- Ponte Vedra Beach
- Raghu Misra
- RL Gundy
- Ron DeSantis
- Sam Garrison
- St. Augustine
- St. Johns County
- Wyman Duggan
This will most likely be the next to the last issue of Bold this Session, assuming serious loggerheads don’t hold up the budget.
Soon enough, it will be campaign season, with several locals looking for higher office. Some have opened campaign accounts. Others are waiting. But in terms of tracking fundraising, we are assuming everyone is hitting the ground running.
It’s that kind of year.
Many analyses of the Legislative Session will focus on one or two bills. But in terms of what awaits these elected officials and the region, what is happening as the days run out before Sine Die may be a prelude for what is to come.
Expect more messaging. Candidates ready for a leap to higher office … you’ll hear from them as they test the statewide waters, especially Democrats like one who offered Jacksonville remarks this week.
For better or worse, the pitched primaries for state Senate races in 2022 will see people get real about each other, perhaps puncturing the balloons of talking points every so often. And the general election will, as it does every time, set things up for a hot 2023 mayoral race. That’s the cycle.
Legislating ends soon enough — then things get real.
It’s a riot
Several Northeast Florida Republicans were part of the roadshow in Polk County around the signing of HB 1, anti-riot legislation championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Only one was in the camera shot: that was Steve Zona of the local Fraternal Order of Police. But two others got into the What They Are Saying email, a message setting missive sent out by the Governor’s Office after controversial bills like this become law.
Says Rep. Cord Byrd: “HB 1 strikes the right balance between protecting the constitutional right to peaceably assemble while punishing those who sow discord and anarchy. HB 1 sends a strong message that Florida will not wait for its cities to burn before taking action to protect her citizens.”
Byrd is one of three local legislators looking to succeed Sen. Aaron Bean next year, and DeSantis props may be seen as a nod in an invisible primary, at least if one is squinting.
Also on the good list: Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams. He got his quote in, a potential boon in whatever his next campaign might be.
“I am very pleased that our Governor has demonstrated yet again his support for law enforcement in signing House Bill 1 — the Anti-Riot Bill. Jacksonville, along with the rest of the state, is ready to work together to build stronger bridges of trust and cooperation while maintaining public safety. Public Safety is paramount for everyone in Florida — our families, our neighbors and our businesses,” Williams lauded.
Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried had an active media blitz Monday in the wake of the top Republican signing into law what he called the stiffest anti-riot legislation in the country.
She began by expressing displeasure with DeSantis first in a House caucus meeting, followed by a news conference, before wrapping it up with an address to Duval County Democrats, showing her inching just a bit closer to what is seeming like an inevitable launch of a challenge to the Republican.
Among the comments: a claim that those who cross DeSantis end up on his “naughty list.” What appears to be embryonic talking points: DeSantis wouldn’t serve a full second term if elected.
“He’s looking at 2024,” Fried said. “He’s trying to use the people of our state for his election.”
Fried, as she has said for months, is going to decide “in the very near future.”
Nuisance calls may not be a thing of the past, but a new bill headed toward the floor in the Senate could tamp them down.
Sen. Audrey Gibson‘s SB 1120, a bill that would restrict telephone solicitors to three calls in 24 hours, cleared the Rules Committee on Tuesday.
Violators could be subject to a penalty of up to $500, tripled if a judge determines it is a willful violation.
Rules was the bill’s final stop before the Senate floor.
According to the Rules Committee analysis of the legislation, the bill may end up costing taxpayers, given the burdens of increased complaints from those with new recourse and, of course, “rule-making.”
If the bill has a path in the House, it will be after passing the Senate, when it theoretically could be taken up. As those who followed the passage of the “anti-riot bill,” HB 1, there are ways around those roadblocks. But as Session nears its end, it may not be a priority.
Gonna make you sweat
It seems lawmakers will find money in the budget for the Clay and Nassau County versions of the Youth Alternative to Secured Detention programs. Sen. Jennifer Bradley and Rep. Sam Garrison bring $135,000 to Clay, while Bean and Byrd will bring $110,000 to Nassau.
Target populations, according to Bradley’s Senate budget request: “Persons with poor mental health, At-risk youth, Grade school students, High school students.”
“A youth intervention program that meets the targeted needs of Clay County Youth by providing effective diversion and intervention programs which includes redirection of youth through community service, mentoring and academic assistance to prevent juvenile delinquency. Program services will be provided to youth who are identified as at-risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system and are between the ages of six and eighteen years.”
Bean’s request for Nassau County offers further clarification, including developing the metaphor.
“The SWEAT Program is designed to redirect “at-risk” youth by way of community service, mentoring and academic assistance in an attempt to reduce juvenile delinquency rates. The SWEAT Program formalizes a mentoring system with the additional ability to hire tutors from the local school system for the youth. It also provides a “sweat” component in which the youth participate in stents of physical labor rather than spending time in detention. The tutoring and mentoring component combined with the “sweat” component, provide the necessary tools to break some of the generational cycles of poverty, dysfunction, and lack of education while promoting self-esteem,” the request asserts.
It’s up to the Governor, like everything else, but this is in a good place.
Girl Matters gets funds
Bean and Byrd teamed up to get $400,000 routed to the Delores Barr Weaver Center, via agreements Monday between the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice and House of Representatives Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.
The money addresses ‘root causes’ of recidivism, focusing on 63 girls between the ages of five and 17.
“The purpose of this request is to sustain the Girl Matters: Continuity of Care (CCM) successful community-based program which slows down the conveyor belt of girls going deeper into the justice system and stops the revolving door of girls cycling in and out of the system due to unaddressed mental health needs. We have proven that girls in or at serious risk of entering the justice system can be better served in the local community and save the state significant funding by preventing girls who do not pose a public safe risk from being committed to costly residential commitment programs far away from their homes. Training stakeholders improve the continuity of care. An investment of $400,000 in the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center’s CCM program and training interrupts the path to the justice system for 63 girls and saves the state $4.5M.”
More money this year: $400,000, up from $300,000 in the previous budget. Assuming DeSantis signs off, of course.
Budget deliberations this week led to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice and House of Representatives Justice Appropriations Subcommittee agreeing on $150,000 going to automatic plate readers for Jacksonville Beach.
The budget request from Sen. Bean stresses safety for the seaside city: “Acquire automated License Plate Readers (LPRs) for the City of Jacksonville Beach to enhance law enforcement service by identifying criminal vehicles entering/exiting communities, and for general monitoring of municipal boundaries and target areas within the city. LPRs shall be installed on roadways including, but not limited to, State Road A1A, State Road 202, and State Road 212.”
Byrd, who represents Jacksonville Beach, carried the House version of the ask for the nonrecurring funds.
The goal: “Mitigation of criminal activities within the City of Jacksonville Beach which will be measured by the solving of investigations, apprehension of criminals, and prosecution of defendants.”
Some good news appears likely in the new budget for Operation New Hope, where former state Rep. Reggie Fullwood now serves as Chief Operating Officer.
The reentry program’s $1.5 million slice of the nonrecurring funds part of the state budget appears intact after the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice and House of Representatives Justice Appropriations Subcommittee reached an accord. The program also gets $1.225 million in nonrecurring funds annually.
The skinny, via the Senate request form from Sen. Jennifer Bradley: “On the prerelease side, the Operation New Hope (ONH) Ready4Release program meets with inmates to formalize a release plan. On the post-release side, the ONH Ready4Work program provides case management, mental health support, soft skills training, vocational training, job preparation training, and a dedicated job coach.”
A three-year 8.64% recidivism rate measures the program’s success, compared to the FDOC’s recidivism rate of 24.5%.
Byrd carried the House version of the ask, which ultimately is contingent on the final budget.
A bill that would bring some tough subjects to public school curricula is one step closer to passing the Senate as of Monday afternoon.
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday approved HB 519, a substitute for SB 1094 from Sen. Bean.
Appropriations is the final committee stop for the legislation.
The House product, which passed already, was sponsored by Rep. Clay Yarborough, a Republican from Jacksonville.
On a packed daylong agenda with nearly 100 bills, this piece of legislation had a short hearing, running under two minutes before the vote. But the legislation could be significant.
The bill requires “age and developmentally appropriate” instruction on the prevention of child sexual abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking, topics that are among the most serious issues anywhere, but that today’s curriculum doesn’t fully address.
The legislation also mandates instruction on “abstinence and the consequences of teen pregnancy” for students in grade 6 and up, but not for younger students who would have no developmental rationale for this instruction yet.
It’s only a matter of when, not if, the name of Jacksonville’s Robert E. Lee High School is changed.
But as a new national feature in Teen Vogue shows, it won’t happen before the city is embarrassed again … and again … on a national stage.
Students, primarily Black ones, take issue with honoring the secessionist champion.
“Students are outraged. And when they can’t go to the meetings, they cling on to the viral videos where all we are seeing are opposing comments that aren’t amplifying the voices of the students. We’re feeling marginalized because we’re not really being heard,” says Deyona Burton, senior class president at Lee. “It’s like we’re doing everything right, ’cause you see it, but are you hearing us?”
Chamber wants name changes
The pressure to change the monikers of Jacksonville schools named after Confederate leaders is getting more intense as JAX Chamber officials have entered the fray.
The commerce group’s board of directors voted Friday unanimously to back efforts to get rid of names on Jacksonville schools that pay homage to the rebel leaders. While much of the attention in Jacksonville has focused on Lee High School lately, the resolution approved by the JAX Chamber board wants to go further.
The JAX Chamber resolution wants half a dozen schools in Jacksonville to undergo name changes. They include:
— J.E.B. Stuart Middle School.
— Jefferson Davis Middle School.
— Joseph Finegan Elementary School.
— Kirby-Smith Middle School.
— Stonewall Jackson Elementary School.
— Robert E. Lee High School.
JAX Chambers said Confederate leader names on schools had become an economic, cultural, and racial issue.
“We are asking companies to invest here, and for top talent to move and live here. We say that we are open to everyone, and I believe that we are. But, right now, we have six school names that tell African Americans otherwise,” said JAX Chamber Chair Henry Brown, who is also president and CEO of Miller Electric in Jacksonville.
JAX Chamber officials acknowledged the school name issue extends to Andrew Jacksonville High School and Jean Ribault — named after the French Huguenot explorer — middle and high schools. But the chamber board is not taking a position on those names at this time.
A rolling coronavirus vaccination mobile unit is increasing its presence in the Jacksonville area in the coming days and weeks.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority has partnered with Agape Family Health to provide the Wellness on Wheels mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic, offering increasing access. There will be multiple availabilities, but Friday brings the unit to JTA headquarters in downtown Jacksonville.
The mobile vaccination clinic will be available from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center, 100 LaVilla Center Drive.
Not only is it the central public bus transportation transfer hub, but it’s also home to JTA administrative offices near the Prime Osborn Convention Center.
The transportation center sees the highest volume of bus passengers in the city and would be a key location for the mobile vaccination clinic to catch the travelers coming and going. The mobile clinic is also free, requires no appointments and is open to all.
The mobile vaccination unit also increases visibility in other city areas through the end of this week. Anyone can visit it at these locations and times:
— Wednesday, noon to 7 p.m., second doses only, Potters House Christian Academy 5732 Normandy Blvd.
— Thursday, noon to 5 p.m., second doses only, Head Start, 4051 Philips Highway.
— Friday, April 23, noon to 6 p.m., Dayspring Baptist Church, 5654 Dunn Ave.
— Saturday, April 24, Saturday, April 24, 8 a.m. to noon, second doses only, Open Arms Christian Fellowship, 763 Dunn Ave., 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Greater Mount Vernon Baptist Church, 1462 Prince St., and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., second doses only, Church of Oakland, 1025 Jessie St.
There are more trips planned for the mobile vaccine unit in the coming days and weeks, which can be found on the JTA website.
In the coronavirus era, health care providers have been front and center, and in St. Johns County, it was Flagler Health+ that rose to the challenge of navigating COVID-19.
Leading the Flagler Health+ team is CEO Jason Barrett, who guided Flagler to expand its footprint in the community, both in the scope of service and physically: Treating dozens of COVID-19 patients, testing in St. Augustine and helping the county develop public policy.
In a conversation with the Jacksonville Business Journal, Barrett talked about how Flagler Health+ handles COVID-19 and other issues.
“We really found ourselves in a position of not just being a provider, an acute provider,” Barrett said. “We really found ourselves in an advisory position working with the city, the county, on policy. We were actively engaged … with the county Emergency Operations Center about how do we address COVID.”
He added that Flagler Health+ was in a “unique position of serving in a public health role” that was not usual for the health care network.
“From a standpoint as to how vital we were to the community from a policy perspective to obviously providing the straightforward clinical care — and there was a fair amount of anxiety to go along with that — to the point of how do we help other businesses continue to (operate),” Barrett said. “Because beyond the physical health, there’s the economic health for these organizations trying to sustain, we became a vital partner in that as well.”
JAXPORT helps Puerto Rico
The Jacksonville Port Authority will shore up its economic partnership with Puerto Rico Monday as the JAXPORT board will host the U.S. Territory’s ports authority executive director.
Joel Piza-Batiz will be the official guest at the JAXPORT board meeting Monday. Piza-Batiz will not be visiting only as part of the ceremony. The JAXPORT board is planning to finalize an agreement between Puerto Rico and Jacksonville to continue the maritime partnership that has endured decades.
Both Piza-Batiz, the ports authority director of Puerto Rico, and JAXPORT CEO Eric Green will sign a “memorandum of understanding” cementing the partnership between the two cargo and logistics industry destinations.
“Maritime trade between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico was first established in the 1950s, and today Jacksonville is the No. 1 U.S. port for trade with the island, handling nearly 90 percent of all sea trade between Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland,” a JAXPORT news release said.
The signing of the trade accord is considered so monumental that Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault will be on hand to oversee the ceremony.
Other dignitaries expected to be on hand include JAXUSA Partnership President Aundra Wallace and corporate executives from Crowley Maritime, TOTE Maritime and Trailer Bridge. Those are all key shipping companies based in Jacksonville with essential commercial routes to Puerto Rico.
Child Safety Matters
The Monique Burr Foundation is known in Florida, but schools in other states are increasingly finding the organization’s anti-bullying and abuse-awareness education is a valuable tool for helping students process abuse events and learn how to prevent them from happening in the future.
MBF offers courses on abuse, cyberbullying, exploitation, trafficking, digital abuse, and other digital dangers children face. The curriculum provides children and adults information and strategies to prevent, recognize, and respond to abuse.
Deb Rosen, Executive Director of Bivona Child Advocacy Center in New York, praised the Florida-based organization’s “Child Safety Matters” curriculum.
“This is a well-researched evidence-informed curriculum that teaches children fundamentally about how to keep themselves safe. It teaches them about body safety, it teaches them about trusted adults, and it teaches them about what to do if somebody is making them feel uncomfortable or unsafe,” she said.
In Florida, the Monique Burr Foundation curriculum is available in all school districts thanks to a contract through the Attorney General’s Office.
Back from the dead
Jacksonville’s Blue Cypress municipal golf course garnered national play, a favorable write-up for a reclamation project years in the making.
The elegiac prose in the Golf.com piece is like something from a different time, with a killer lede from Josh Sens: “Death is not forever. Not for a golf course. Not when those who mourn its loss vow to bring it back to life.”
Councilwoman Joyce Morgan reflected on a unique symbiosis between the community of golfers and the reclaimed treasure in her district.
“I think that as a community, we get it now,” Morgan says. “We know what it’s like to lose our golf course, and we don’t want to ever let that happen again.”