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Florida Lawmakers Hear From Their Constituents

The Florida Channel
Broward Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie

Florida lawmakers are hearing from the public on issues such as election reform, public school funding and mental health. From Broward to Bay counties, they’re getting an earful from the public on exactly where the focus should be during the 2019 legislative session.

State lawmakers will likely be tackling election reform following recounts in three tight races in 2018.

Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Anderson spoke about changes he thought could help elections go smoother in the future.

“We’ve come to conclusion that for election day instead of setting up 44 separate different [polling] locations that voters have to go to the right location. I’d have 10 mega sites and I’d have them open through that voting period. Believe it or not the last general election day was the smoothest, easiest election day that I’ve ever had in the 18 years that I’ve been in my office and that’s simply because it was just easier to manage,” said Anderson.

Anderson added that he doesn’t encourage vote-by-mail to citizens if they can avoid it because he knows the chances are higher of that ballot not making it back in time. That was one of the many issues that led to post-election lawsuits.

Meanwhile, Panama City Manager Mark McQueen is asking for around $70 million for debris removal. Hurricane Michael created more than 2 million cubic yards of debris in Panama City alone.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley is focused on the validation process for felons registering to vote under Amendment 4. It restores voting rights for felons not convicted of murder or a sexual offense.

“It’s just a more complicated validation process. You have to find the person; determine what type of felony it was. Then somehow find out whether they’ve fulfilled all the requirements set forth by the court.” Earley added, “That investigative process can be much more difficult instead of just checking to see if the State clemency board gave them their rights back.”

As for the actual process the felons will have to follow to register to vote, Democratic Senator Bill Montford believes the legislature needs to make no changes to allow them to register on January 8th.

In Hillsborough County, there’s a request for mental health funding after several first responders committed suicide within the past few months. Lisa Montelione, a board member for a local health center, led the charge.

“I’m begging you, when you go to Tallahassee to look at the tax payer funds, I know it’s hard but we need to increase mental health funding or we will see more tragedies, more deaths, and more of our neighbors dying unnecessarily,” exclaimed Montelione.

And in Broward, Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie came with a list of requests.

“So those are our big asks right so funding, continue to ensure that the resources for 7026 which is safety & security, the mental health resources and others that those continue to be funded, maintain the rates for our required local effort, redirect the best & brightest funds into a pool of dollars that we can properly compensate teachers and support for a victims’ compensation fund,” said Runcie.

That compensation fund would be for the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting.

Counties will continue to have delegation meetings as we near the start of the 2019 legislative session approaches. Lawmakers will return to Tallahassee in March.

Copyright 2019 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Blaise Gainey is a Multimedia Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.
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