When state Rep. Charles McBurney called me yesterday from his law office in Jacksonville, the North Florida Republican let me know why it had taken him so long to get back to me. “The week before session is crazy,” he said — and that’s especially true for one of the power players in the Florida House of Representatives.
McBurney looks forward to getting back to work. This term, he prioritizes “chairing the Judiciary Committee in the Florida House,” which he says is the “best job.”
He’s optimistic about the upcoming term, and given that he’s a major chairman, he doesn’t do local bills. However, “most issues have local implications,” he says, and he’s looking to focus on several issues of importance, including the intersection of mental health and criminal justice, and establishing a criminal penalty for multiple civil infractions within five years or less that cause physical harm to victims.
He specifically cited an example from 2013 of such an incident, when a woman was killed crossing a major road in Jacksonville, by a driver who had hit and killed a child years before on the same road.
If the desired legislation comes to pass, such an offense would be regarded as a third-degree felony.
Beyond that, he’d like legislative reform to address “senior judges,” who can’t be hired by the state of Florida within a year after retiring, leading to a loss of key talent. The legislation he proposes would “let them serve.”
He’s in favor of some special appropriations, including for the USS Adams, the 5 Star Veterans Center, and for civics education (including certification of teachers and track systems).
Regarding the burning issue of medical marijuana, the Republican advocates a phased approach even as he keeps an “open mind.” He’s “studying and reviewing” proposed bills, but cautions that “we haven’t started to implement the Charlotte’s Web bill yet. We still don’t know how it will work.”
Turning to alcohol, two issues on the minds of voters are growlers for beer and grocery-store liquor sales.
Regarding growlers, his “general philosophy is to let the free market determine” the proper course, even as a “food fight” from lobbyists on both sides proceeds.
He is less open to liquor sales in grocery stores.
“I’d be willing to look at it but I have not seen a compelling reason to change the law,” he said.
Turning to education, McBurney asserted that “one issue I’m looking at is the amount of testing done throughout the year,” specifically “state-required standardized testing.” He has a special vantage point on this issue: His wife is a music teacher at Mandarin Oaks Elementary School in Jacksonville.
“Give teachers as much flexibility as you can”, he said. “Teachers will rise to the challenge.”
The discussion then turned to ride-share services, such as Uber and Lyft. “The state should not pick winners and losers”, the Republican said. “The free market should determine.”