The Duval County Legislative Delegation on Monday heard opinions and recommendations from dozens of speakers for the 2022 Legislative Session.
Newly elected Chair Rep. Cord Byrd, vice chairman Wyman Duggan, and the others, heard from more than 60 speakers over nearly four hours, illustrating a diverse range of stakeholders and needs in the Jacksonville area.
The Jacksonville Aviation Authority’s Michael Stewart urged support for Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ transportation budget generally, while urging opposition to HB 65, a Rep. Tyler Sirois bill that would cut fees through 2042 for spaceport users transporting launch equipment.
Jane West of 1,000 Friends of Florida urged a breach of the Rodman Dam and a full adoption of recommendations of the Blue Green Algae Task Force convened early in DeSantis’ first term. She also urged capping residential water usage at 115 gallons per person per day, and spoke against “preemption bills” that encroach on home rule.
Mayo Clinic’s Layne Smith said the clinic wants legislation making it easier to deliver care to patients off premises. Mayo has a pilot program currently being used in other states, but in a more limited way here, and needs technical changes to the law to facilitate that program. Expect a bill from Sen. Aaron Bean to address some of these hurdles.
The Florida Council on Sexual Violence’s Jennifer Dritt urged legislators to back Rep. Tracie Davis‘ pending appropriations request for $300,000 for legal services for those who suffered sexual assault.
The Arc Jacksonville said current Medicaid waiver rates did not allow them to compete even with fast food restaurants when it comes to hiring and retaining workers, which is bad news for its vulnerable clients. Staffing shortages are leading to developmentally disabled people not getting care, noted new Arc CEO Kari Bates. She would like to see a starting wage of $14.50 an hour for those workers.
Familiar faces in new roles also greeted legislators. Among them was Matt Brockelman of VyStar Credit Union.
Brockelman, formerly of the Southern Group, is the credit union’s new vice president of governmental affairs. He talked about a surge of growth for the institution that will allow VyStar to continue investing in community development and “bring jobs to Northeast Florida.”
Brockelman encouraged lawmakers to work with VyStar to help “modernize” laws relative to banking, to help the credit union serve underbanked communities.
Additionally, a number of speakers touched on other topics, including hot button issues of the day.
Some speakers were from the left. The Rev. R.L. Gundy urged resumption of early voting at Edward Waters University, the University of North Florida and Gateway Shopping Plaza, saying shuttering the sites was a form of voter suppression from the Republican Supervisor of Elections in Duval County. The sites will be closed during the 2021 Special Election.
Still others came from the right.
Kallie Orlik of Florida Freedom Keepers expressed staunch opposition to vaccine mandates. She urged legislators to ensure Florida doesn’t become “a medical fascist state.”
Ed Williams focused on “election integrity” issues, urging a “forensic audit” of the Florida 2020 election, which former President Donald Trump in the Sunshine State.
“There is a large amount of people that question the integrity of our elections,” Williams advised.
DeSantis has resisted calls for an audit of the election thus far, and previously praised Florida for a smooth 2020 General Election.
Karyn Morton, chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, communicated “expectations that you will uphold your oath of office” to lawmakers, urging them to “tell the Speaker and Senate President that you want Constitutional Carry passed,” a reference to legislation that would permit open carry in the state.
Morton also urged the “forensic audit” push, and urged more “medical freedom” legislation.
Other speakers agreed that legislation passed, including during the Special Session, didn’t go far enough to protect people and close “loopholes” allowing employers to “discriminate” against the unvaccinated.
Rep. Angie Nixon questioned a couple of vaccine skeptics, requesting sources for claims they made.