Column: Springtime in Tallahassee

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Seems incredible that we have already reached the last full week of March. You would think that springtime would be in full bloom. Unfortunately, for our northern brethren, nobody informed Old Man Winter. We here in South Florida have the pleasure of enjoying the cool evenings and warm days a bit longer before the heat and humidity settle in. With the springtime holidays of Easter and Passover fast approaching, we should take time to enjoy this delightful weather while it lasts.

If you sense something in the air, it’s not the fresh scent of spring. It’s the ill winds blowing south from Tallahassee. The annual Florida Legislative Session is underway, and there is plenty to be concerned about. Will guns continue to be easily purchased and allowed in most public spaces and college campuses throughout the Sunshine State? Have the pro-gun legislators learned nothing from the shootings in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale Airport? Will House Bill 17 pass, virtually stripping local governments of their powers to regulate zoning of adult bookstores, noise ordinances, protection of residential neighborhoods, parking, and so much more? Will we see more problems with Vacation Rentals that threaten our single-family neighborhoods? How about the important need for funding the Everglades Restoration Project? Improving the delivery of cleaner water to the Everglades and meeting the demands of a clean water supply here in South Florida. So many of these important issues, that affect our daily lives, are mandated up in Tallahassee, far removed from most of us. We should definitely be more concerned. 

We here in Wilton Manors have fresh faces representing us up at the capital. Newly-elected State Senator Barry Farmer is making his presence known. He has introduced a bill to close the gap on gun purchases at gun shows. Currently, individuals can sell guns to anyone without a background check at a gun show. This gives any unstable individual the ability to bypass a background check at a gun store, wait for their local gun show to come to town, and purchase a firearm with no control or barriers in place. Glad to see our local State Senator stepping up quickly with much needed legislation. In the Florida House, we have Representative Bobby Dubose, who is also making a strong showing. He came in second for the leadership position for the Florida House Democrats and is a strong advocate for our region. Unfortunately, George Moraitis, another House member representing parts of Wilton Manors, is still in lock step with the gun lobby on Open Carry Laws and other legislation. 

An unusual hot topic up in Tallahassee is tourism. Funding for Visit Florida is under threat and being held hostage by House Speaker Corcoran. Hmmm, this item should be a no-brainer, funding commercials, advertisements, and other pro-tourism advocacy helps bring in huge tax dollars for state and local coffers. Along with this proposed defunding of Visit Florida are similar threats for Enterprise Florida, the official organization that promotes economic development for the State of Florida. Does it make any sense to defund the organization that is responsible for the relocation of companies to our state along with the creation of solid employment opportunities? Jobs in aerospace, manufacturing, IT, and green energy.  I rarely agree with our Governor, but I fully support his efforts to make sure that these two programs are not gutted but funded during this legislative session.

As we wait here in Wilton Manors, far away from the fun and games in Tallahassee, let’s hope for the best. Tallahassee might be far away, but that distance will not matter once the decisions are made by our lawmakers. We will all feel the effects of their decisions and should be much more aware of the process. I thank all the local activists, involved citizens, local government employees and elected officials who journeyed up to Tallahassee to advocate on our behalf and to hopefully make a difference. 

You can still contact our state legislators and voice your opinions and concerns. Contact information can be found easily on the internet for your State Senator and House Representatives, along with Governor Scott’s office. 

Keeping our life just better here sometimes demands more involvement and awareness of the political happenings beyond our island city’s borders and responsive municipal government. 


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