On Saturday, state Sen. Audrey Gibson and Reps. Tracie Davis and Angie Nixon reviewed a 2022 Legislative Session that left Jacksonville Democrats worse off than when they started, discussing the matter with the Jax Civic Engagement group.
Yet Gibson was upbeat.
“We don’t fail, we just get postponed,” Gibson said, discussing the path ahead, including the upcoming Special Session on property insurance.
Gibson discussed her own bills, diplomatically saying “the House wasn’t very generous in hearing them,” and noting that she pushed for them all the same.
The Senator was enthusiastic about the $80M in the budget for the UF Health trauma center, as well as items for Agape Health, Five-Star Veterans Center, and other budgetary items.
“These are the things I worked on. I busted my butt to make sure they were in there,” Gibson said, mindful of potential gubernatorial vetoes that could ultimately excise them.
Gibson had plenty to criticize also, including the Governor’s move against “critical race theory” and the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which she described as an “okey doke” given the difference between K-3 and the “age appropriate” language in higher grades.
“This is all a set up not to be elected Governor but to be elected President,” Gibson contended.
Davis discussed the “partnership” between the House and the Senate, saying “nothing happens when you don’t collaborate with other people.” Davis noted that approach has led to her passing 17 bills since getting elected in 2016, working with Republicans including Rep. Randy Fine, who she described as a “character.”
Perhaps her most “popular” bill this year was a bill protecting lottery winners’ identity for 90 days after winning, “just to get their financial situation in order before they are revealed.”
But there was plenty for Davis to take issue with also.
Davis noted setbacks for the state, including the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and moves to crack down on election law, and other “challenges,” including Congressional redistricting, which impacted Jacksonville directly. Gibson touched on these issues as well, in addition to other issues like the Governor’s reconstituted “Florida State Guard.”
Rep. Nixon noted the difficulty of getting bills through, saying that often Republican bills would lift concepts from Democratic legislation that can’t get a hearing. One such concept: equity in pay for child care centers across the state, a concept she said went into a bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Erin Grall.
“It’s not always about what bills you pass,” Nixon said.
Ultimately, though, one bill from the just-wrapped Special Session was worthy of extended discussion.
After the last Special Session was over, Democrats in North Florida had no clear path to Congress at all, with the Gov. Ron DeSantis backed redistricting map erasing the former Congressional District 5 Rep. Al Lawson represented.
Lawson was advertised for the event, but sent a staffer in his stead, as he had a graduation ceremony to attend. With no likelihood of Lawson representing these voters again, it will be likely left to a Republican in the new CD 4 to follow through on Lawson’s initiatives.
The legislators on hand talked about the new district, with Gibson decrying “diminishment” of Black voters and the reality that this district and “the seats we ended up with” are set for 2022.
“Clay and Nassau will determine what happens in this district,” Gibson said. She also mentioned Rep. Jason Fischer, who wants to represent this area and “take it away from the woke mob,” as an example of more potential leadership not in Jacksonville’s interest.
Former Sen. Tony Hill made remarks ahead of the current elected leaders, saying that it was Gibson’s “swan song,” and referring to Davis, who is running to succeed Gibson in the Senate, as her “backup” in the House.
Gibson checked Hill on that assertion.
“Well, I’m not a swan, so I’m going to keep on,” Gibson said, vowing to continue “work in the community,” yet stopping short of committing to a campaign in the 2022 cycle or the 2023 Jacksonville mayoral cycle.