Legislators to hold local meeting, probably

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Column by Jim Clark

Reportedly, there’s a Legislative Delegation meeting on Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. at the college’s Klein Center. I say reportedly, because the only place it’s shown up on is the “Sunshine notice” put out by the County Commission anytime more than one commissioner might be at some sort of function together.

So far I have received no notice of the meeting from chairman Dennis Baxley or any other legislator, nor have I seen it publicized anywhere else. So, I would suggest calling before going.

However, working on the assumption that there is a meeting, I hereby submit some items that should be taken up by the Legislature.

  1. Watch your amendments. Last year’s election ballot was cluttered with 11 of them, and all were initiated by the Legislature. Not one was a grass-roots movement by the people of Florida. By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, most were defeated, so a lot of your efforts were a waste of time.
  2. Ban texting while driving. Talking on a cell phone is one thing. Typing a note on a tablet or phone is another. It’s just natural to look at the screen to see what you’re typing. Drivers should be able to talk on the phone without a problem – it’s not much different than listening to the radio or CD. But texting? Get rid of it.
  3. Ease up on the driver license renewal restrictions. I recently did mine, and I had to show a birth certificate (at my age it’s beginning to wear out) and Social Security card. Never mind that I have been working and driving in Florida since 1968 and that my driving record is clean. I sincerely doubt if these rules and regulations are catching any terrorists in their late 60s. And if you’re going to require working people to go to the office to renew, make it mandatory that all driver license offices be open on Saturday.
  4. Back off on some of your education rules and tests. One size fits all education can’t work. Look at some of your northern rural counties, where half the students take some sort of agricultural study, and compare them to, say, Miami, where most of the children have never even seen a farm. Allow more control to local school boards.
  5. While on the subject of schools, make it mandatory that a superintendent of schools, whether elected or appointed, has a master’s degree.
  6. Here’s another school suggestion that some of you won’t like. Since the Legislature is charged with handling public education issues, each legislator should be “all-in” on public schools. No legislator should be allowed to vote on any matter involving public schools if he or she has a child or grandchild in a private school.
  7. Keep legal advertising in newspapers, and allow free circulation papers (such as ours) that meet postal standards of at least 25 percent news content to print legals. That law is antiquated and should be changed. If you want to put legals online, that’s fine, but understand that in Florida there is a large segment of population that doesn’t “surf” the Internet. They must have access to those same legal ads in print.
  8. Get rid of red light cameras before the courts tell you to do so. There is inconsistent enforcement, improper enforcement and no chance for alleged violators to confront their accusers. Take the money cities spend for the cameras and for people to monitor them and put police officers at the same locations.
  9. Finally, pass a budget first. It gets tiring year after year of seeing the Legislature racing to pass a budget as the session winds down. How about a House and Senate rule that no legislation may be voted on until after a budget is adopted. That way, the one big thing that you are mandated to do will get done with proper debate.

Of course, no one realistically thinks that the legislators are going to pay attention to me. But if others agree with any of these, and let all their legislators know about it, maybe something will get done.

See you on Jan. 8 at 1 p.m., if it turns out the rumors are true. If not, send your suggestions to local legislators in writing.


Jim Clark is the editor of the West Marion Messenger and South Marion Citizen.