Constituents had the opportunity to chat with local elected officials last week during the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce’s annual Capitol Coffee event.
The public and elected officials Lawrence McClure (R), House District 58, Mike Beltran (R), House District 57 and Danny Burgess (R), Senate District 20, mingled at the Trinkle Center early May 12. Those in attendance were able to ask their elected officials questions about the last session and share their concerns. After approximately half an hour of socializing, the group took their seats as the three representatives headed toward the stage.
Mayor Rick Lott kicked things off by praising the trio that were there that morning and reflected on the help they provided Plant City during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“On behalf of the city and on behalf of our citizens, I just want to start by saying thank you,” Lott said. “Thank you for your leadership this past year. It’s easy to lead and easy to make decisions and easy to progress when there’s great funding and no real issues out there. I don’t think anyone here as far as managing your business, managing your families, being an elected official could have foreseen the challenges we had last year, but I think sometimes that a city’s true character, an elected official’s true character, your business’s true character, your family’s true character shows when your back is up against the wall and I want to tell you that this city feels honored that we had you representing us in Tallahassee. You made us feel comfortable about moving forward.”
He took a moment to specifically highlight McClure and said last year when the pandemic hit, McClure was always there to answer the phone whenever Lott had questions, needed someone to fight for funding for the city or to simply have the city’s best interest at heart when helping make decisions in Tallahassee. He called McClure “a true champion for Plant City.”
The representatives were asked to talk about a bill they were most proud of getting approved this last session, as well as a bill they weren’t able to get pushed through but hoped to bring back to the table soon.
Beltran said he was most proud of working on a bill designed to “prevent unsolicited telemarketing calls” that passed out of both chambers and went to the governor’s desk. He said he also was proud of working on and passing a bill that attempted to “counteract the Chinese and other countries doing trade secret theft, which has been a problem for a long time.” The third bill he was most proud of that passed off the floor was one to repeal the Constitution Revision Commission. Now approved, the question is expected to appear before voters on the 2022 ballot. To approve the repeal, the voters must approve it by a 60 percent vote.
He added that he wants to focus next year on bringing back a bill to focus on baby boxes. Beltran said the bill essentially expands the newborn/infant surrender statute. It will allow for more baby boxes to be installed throughout communities so that new parents who cannot or do not wish to keep a child will have more places to surrender the child. It also expands the number of days a parent has to make that decision after the birth.
This was Sen. Burgess’ first session in the Senate and he said of all the things they were able to accomplish, the one he was most proud of involved the FDVA Veterans’ Claims Examiners. Essentially the bill allows for individuals who do not have a four year bachelors degree but are otherwise “perfectly qualified” to become a Veterans’ Claims Examiner to ask the government to intercede and waive the educational requirement for them. He said the bill passed early in the session and that he hopes they will see it signed into law soon.
Something he wished he could have gotten accomplished echoed the Veterans’ Claims Examiners bill. Burgess said he wants to see a similar process established with Disability Claims. He said there are so many families that have a hard time navigating disability claims and he wants a similar service in place so there is a “one-stop shop” for families that need help with that process.
McClure said he was most proud of working on and succeeding in getting passed a COVID liability protection bill for businesses and healthcare facilities. He said it helped “put our business community at ease” and was really proud of the work with that. He was also proud of a Right to Farm bill he “had a lot of interaction on.” Food security was a priority in the pandemic and McClure said protecting farmers was something they all took seriously during their session.
However, he added he wants to bring back a bill that focuses on working from home and deregulating some of the things that focus on Floridians’ ability to work from home. He said giving Floridians the flexibility to work from home leads to a meaningful impact on a variety of issues including using taxpayer dollars for infrastructure, as inevitably there will be a lowered need for repairs if fewer people are commuting to work.
Those in attendance were given a set of “social etiquette” rules to follow throughout the event including refraining from commenting during each representative’s speech. They were, however, invited to text questions for specific representatives to a number and some of those questions were shared in a Q&A section following the initial program.
All three candidates agreed to stay late to answer the questions and many lingered following the event to wrap up one-on-ones with attendees who wanted to ask specific questions away from the crowd.