With only two weeks left in the 2022 Legislation Session, I thought this would be a good time to share a little about what’s been done and what is left to do.
Much of our time has been spent on redistricting, which happens every 10 years, soon after the census. Most of the small counties I represent saw a slight population decrease which will shift Senate District 3 towards the east. We are still awaiting court approval, but it is expected that Senate District 3 will lose Calhoun County while adding Dixie, Lafayette and Suwannee Counties. I have loved getting to know the people of Calhoun County and I am disappointed that I might not have the privilege of representing them in the future, but I will never stop working on issues that benefit ALL small counties.
While redistricting has been a main focus of this Session, we have also been working hard on the state budget. Thanks to a swiftly recovering economy, and several federal injections of dollars, our state budget is in good financial shape and I am working hard to ensure that small, fiscally constrained counties get a fair share of these resources.
The Senate budget that we voted on February 17th addresses many of my top priorities including historic investments in pre-K, increased support for public education, workforce housing, protection of our land and water, and a number of key provisions impacting small rural counties. Several appropriations of note to SD3 include funding for Rish Park in Gulf County and Apalachicola Oyster restoration, additional support for the Jefferson County School District as it returns to local control, and a special fund for small county law enforcement officers. There are still some issues to work out including funding for small county roads and bridges, and pay increases for State Attorneys and Public Defenders, but some great news is that both the House and Senate acknowledge the hard work of our state workforce by addressing pay increases for state employees.
I am also watching a number of bills that will have a direct impact on local governments and the constituents we jointly serve. I recently voted against a bill (SB 280) that would limit the ability of local governments to make decisions for their communities. I believe LOCAL decisions are best made by the local elected officials, without interference by a distant and big state government. While this bill passed the Senate, despite my no vote, it still has a couple of committees to go in the House.
As I have stressed during my year and half in the Senate, my TOP priority is to ensure that the citizens, businesses, and visitors to Senate District 3 and our state have access to high-speed internet. We all know how important this is to our community’s ability to work, learn, provide telehealth and promote economic development opportunities. Earlier this year, I was appointed to the National Precision Agriculture Connectivity Task Force, and we are working on broadband expansion in rural areas to promote precision agricultural practices. While agriculture may not be the first thing you think of in the broadband expansion discussion, high speed internet is absolutely essential for modern and sustainable farming practices -- not just in the District, but in Florida and the entire nation.
It has been such a pleasure to welcome back constituents, advocates, elected officials and organizations to the Capitol. I appreciate each and every one of you and the issues and opinions that you share – they make me a better Senator. If you have plans to be in Tallahassee, please stop by and say hello. As always, please feel free to reach out via email at email@example.com or call 850-487-5003 (Tallahassee), 850-627-0474(Quincy).
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