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County commission to go to Tallahassee to oppose single-member district local bill

County Commissioner Ken Cornell

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

During the legislative update at the December 14 Alachua County Commission meeting, lobbyist Tom Griffin told the board that defeating the local bill for single-member districts for the county commission will be a high priority in the January regular session of the legislature. He explained that the local bill will originate in the House and be heard by a subcommittee and then a committee that oversees all local matters. Once the bill passes those committees, it will reach the House floor and be voted up or down. Griffin said, “Obviously we will be working along the way to oppose the legislation, both in committees as well as on the House floor.” He said the bill would then be sent over to the Senate, and all of the local bills would be taken up as one package by the Senate. There he will be working to withdraw the bill from the local bill calendar, “thereby rendering it ineligible for vote.” He said the likelihood of that is “fairly low” because it would have to be withdrawn by a delegation member, and Senator Keith Perry is our only delegation member in the Senate. If it passes, he would be working to persuade Governor DeSantis to veto it.

Griffin recommended “representation above our firm’s representation… I would certainly encourage and recommend that you… put some County support behind this; certainly some public testimony would, I think, be of some value.” He said he would keep the board informed about the committees’ schedules. 

Commissioner Ken Cornell said he wanted a list of the committee members, once the bill is scheduled to be heard by a committee, and the lobbyist said that having local elected officials and citizens give testimony “makes a significant impact… and I think it is always well-received.”

Chair Marihelen Wheeler pointed out that the Gainesville City Commission also opposed the bill, “so when you look at the population of the City of Gainesville and the unincorporated, you have essentially 90% of the population, their elected body unanimously opposing this local effort by Representative Clemons, and so that’s another fact and figure that I’ll continue to share with folks and will certainly bring that information up to the representatives as they’re considering it in committee.”

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Griffin also said he would work with County staff to deliver letters of opposition from any individuals, groups, or organizations that are “willing to weigh in on this issue via letter. I think that that would be helpful as well, just to be able to present some additional materials to show, you know, the opposition locally.”

Commissioner Mary Alford said she would also like to join Cornell in “traveling to Tallahassee in opposition,” and Wheeler said, “We may be there en masse. Sounds like we’re going to come. Look for us all.”

County Manager Michele Lieberman said she would make sure to notice any committee meetings so that multiple commission members can be in attendance. 

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