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Gainesville City Commission votes to continue challenging State’s preemption of local firearms legislation

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

During the April 15 Gainesville City Commission meeting, City Attorney Nicolle Shalley gave the commission an update on litigation regarding the state’s preemption of local firearms legislation. Several of the commissioners are individually named in the collective litigation, and recently an appellate court “largely overturned the more favorable ruling” (to the City) at the district court level. The outside counsel now wants to take the case to the Florida Supreme Court, so Shalley asked the commissioners whether they wanted to continue to spend funds that were previously approved and continue to name the City and specific commissioners in the brief to be filed before the Florida Supreme Court. 

Mayor Lauren Poe, Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos, Commissioner Harvey Ward, and Commissioner David Arreola all said they wanted to continue to be named in the case.

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In public comment on the motion, Nathan Skop said the commissioners “swore an individual oath to uphold the laws of the State of Florida and the Constitution. And none of you follow that. You just thumb your nose at what you like and don’t like… And Commissioner Ward stated, ‘I went to the Water Management District, and they were just going to vote, and wouldn’t listen to us.’ Look, commissioners, that’s exactly what you do. You don’t listen to the public. So how does it feel?”

Ward read from the text of the statute that is being challenged and said, “It is not a question of simply preempting. It is a question of going entirely nuclear on any local government who has the temerity to pass anything regarding firearms or ammunition. It is a massive legislative overreach. And has been since it was passed.”

Poe added, “It’s not just a fine. You can be removed from office, and even comes with jail time. And more than that, it’s the precedent that if the state legislature can remove officials from office or fine or imprison them for doing their jobs, for doing what the people who elected them want them to do, asked them to do, it is a gross intimidation within the democratic process. So this is about much more than guns.”

The commission voted unanimously to continue supporting the lawsuit.

Water rates

In other business, the commission voted to decrease the threshold for the highest water rates from 16,000 gallons to 12,000 gallons, increasing the cost to those who use between 12,000 and 15,999 gallons in a billing cycle. This is “primarily driven by water conservation” and is aimed at households who have lots of outdoor use, like washing a car or watering the lawn.

They also voted to change the City of Alachua wholesale water rate from $1.62/kgal to $2.67/kgal. This applies to four meters in the City of Alachua that “serve multiple customers on the other side.”

Commercial wastewater charges will change from 95% of water use to 100% of water use (wastewater isn’t metered, so charges are based on estimates). Also, for all customers, the use of “winter max” calculations to cap wastewater charges for the rest of the year will be discontinued, and wastewater charges will be based on water use year-round, with a 12,000-gallon cap. 

During the discussion, Poe said he favored reducing the threshold from 16,000 to 12,000: “You know, I really, I firmly believe that any irrigation should pay a premium. You know, it’s not in anybody’s best interest to irrigate.” He also recommended looking at it again in a couple years to see if they should reduce it to 10,000 or 8,000. 

During public comment, Nathan Skop said he supported reducing the third-tier threshold to promote water conservation and add some revenue to the GRU system. He was not in favor of moving away from the “winter max,” which provides an incentive to customers to conserve water. 

Commissioner Gigi Simmons requested that they ask staff to come up with an education campaign to explain the changes. 

The motion passed 6-0, with Commission Gail Johnson absent during the vote.

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