Dan Daley reflects on National Guard, eco-smart consumer savings wins and vows continued gun safety push
Image via Colin Hackley.

‘I don’t like wasting time.’

Like practically every other Florida lawmaker, Rep. Dan Daley would have liked to have seen more of his bills cross the proverbial finish line this past Session, but that’s not to say he didn’t score significant wins.

For Daley, a Coral Springs Democrat, the focus in Tallahassee during the 2022 Session was to “deal in the art of the possible” by getting as much done as he could.

Among the meaningful advancements Daley made this year was the unanimous passage of HM 505, a bill he sponsored urging Congress to impel the National Guard Bureau to increase the size of Florida’s National Guard.

Republican Sen. Tom Wright of Port Orange carried an identical version of the bill in the Senate (SM 826), which also passed.

The number of Guard members in Florida is currently capped at about 12,000, a figure Daley described as “woefully inadequate” for a state of roughly 22 million. That deficiency was no better put into perspective than in the last 18 months, Daley said, when everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to natural disasters demanded more Guard member work hours than had been dedicated in the prior 20 years.

The result has led to burnout among troops, not to mention trouble retaining and recruiting guardsmen.

“These troops, these men and women, they’re cycling through deployment after deployment, and you have to remember these folks serve on the state level but can also be federally deployed,” he said. “Now they’re not reupping. Recruiting is becoming more difficult because people would rather go into the Air Force Reserve and the Army Reserve where it’s not as taxing, where you’re not doing the natural disaster role. So, it’s a really important issue.”

Another bill of Daley’s died in its original form but was later resurrected in an even more impactful way.

The bill (HB 201) would have established a three-day sales tax holiday on the retail sale of new eco-friendly ENERGY STAR and WaterSense products. West Park Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones filed the bill’s Senate companion (SB 356). Neither passed.

Instead, the ENERGY STAR part of the measure was absorbed into a massive House tax bill (HB 7071) that includes a one-year tax exemption on the sale of noncommercial ENERGY STAR-labeled washing machines, clothes dryers, water heaters and refrigerators.

Speaking with Florida Politics this month about the bill, Jones told Florida Politics he was absolutely fine with the way things turned out.

“You can put money back into Floridians’ pockets,” he said. “I’m here for it.”

Not all of Daley’s bills made it through the Legislature this year. One such bill (HB 181) would have increased restrictions on ammunition sales, a move Daley called “the low-hanging fruit of reasonable gun reform.”

The proposal is named “Jaime’s Law” after Jaime Guttenberg, one of the 17 people killed during the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland.

Had it passed, the bill would subject people buying ammunition to the same background checks required for those purchasing a firearm. In accordance with current background check strictures, law enforcement and those with concealed weapon permits would be exempted from the rule.

Exemptions would also exist for people buying, selling or transferring ammo at shooting ranges, hunting sites or fishing sites provided the seller or transferor of the ammo has no reason to believe the person receiving the ammo intends to use it in a crime or is prohibited from possessing ammo under state or federal law.

“All we’re trying to do is stop that bad guy with a gun the Republicans and NRA love to talk about,” he said. “Why make it so gosh darn easy for them to go and get ammunition?”

This Session marked the third time Daley filed the bill, which would bring Florida’s laws regarding ammunition in line with similar laws in 25 other states. Boca Raton Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky filed its similarly unsuccessful Senate measure (SB 334), which Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book cosponsored. Book had carried the bill in the Senate in 2020 and 2021.

Daley said the lack of success so far for the bill, which he worked on with Jaime’s father, Fred Guttenberg, is especially frustrating considering how keen to it some GOP lawmakers have seemed to be while off camera.

He and Guttenberg had “a number of conversations” about the bill, which he intends to bring back again next Session, with lawmakers who understood and showed interest in the legislation.

“But publicly, they’re not willing to express that understanding and support,” he said. “Because heaven forbid we do something counter to the NRA.”

Another point of frustration this Session stemmed from HB 1269, which saw some success in the House before stalling out but whose Senate version (SB 1794) by Jones didn’t receive a single hearing.

The bill’s aim was simple, Daley said. It would have enabled existing thoroughbred permit holders who want to run Standardbred horse racing, or harness racing, to do so.

According to Daley, Senate President Wilton Simpson — who is running to become Florida’s next Agriculture Commissioner — blocked the bill despite previously committing to helping it to move along.

Daley said he tried to get Simpson’s help on the bill.

“He couldn’t be bothered,” he said. “I just find it ironic that the same person who wants to have the top job when it comes to agriculture in the state just put 10,000 individuals in the agriculture industry out of business.”

That disconnect, he said, is symptomatic of a larger problem this last Session in which hyperpartisan causes overshadowed what he calls “kitchen table issues” affecting everyday Floridians.

“Take for example property insurance (and) the housing situation, where people are being priced out of their home and having to leave communities they grew up in — we’re not addressing any of that,” he said. “But we passed an abortion bill. We passed ‘Don’t Say Gay.’ We passed an elections bill that wasn’t even necessary.”

Daley continued: “I don’t like wasting time, and I feel like we wasted an enormous amount of time this Session on issues that nobody but the fringe of one party cares about. And that’s all those bills are designed to do, drum up the base.

“They’re not good policy. They’re not good for Florida. And there’s 9,000 more important things that we should have been working on.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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