Monday, March 14, 2016

Senator Bill Montford Updates Franklin County on the 2016 Legislative Session

Florida State Senator Bill Montford
Tallahassee, FL - The Florida Senate and House of Representatives wrapped up the final version of the budget this week and sent bills for final review to the Governor’s desk before adjourning for the year. Senator Bill Montford, who represents 11 counties in North Florida, gave a final overview for his district.

“As a Legislature we committed to passing legislation that will protect our springs and waterways and fund programs for students with unique abilities in the very first weeks of Session. This set the tone for a productive Session, and while there were some disappointments along the way, North Florida can be proud of much that was accomplished.

Education - Education received an overall increase of 1% which will pay for the over 36,000 new students coming into public schools this coming fall. I advocated for the Legislature to look at the very real needs of public schools and to fund the many requirements placed on schools and to expand programs that help our students succeed. Our hard working teachers and principals deserve the tools to ensure that every student is successful. We were able to increase funding for students with disabilities and provide additional money for computers in the classroom. We also allocated $75 million for capital outlay that can be used to maintain and repair our public school buildings.

Environmental Preservation - This year I sponsored two bills that would provide small counties specific funding avenues for solid waste management and sewer projects. The lack of quality water infrastructure is on the minds of many communities around the nation and these two programs will allow for the protection of not only our environment but also our communities.

Fracking - There was an attempt this year to regulate hydraulic fracturing in the State of Florida. I, along with several of my colleagues fought this effort and asked for a closer examination of the impacts that fracking is having around the country. The peninsula of Florida is especially susceptible to aquifer disruption and my Senate district has the most first magnitude springs in the State, so North Florida should be the last place we consider fracking.

Military Affairs and Veterans - Florida is committed to being the friendliest state in the Union when it comes to veterans and their families. The legislature and the Governor have supported measures over the last several years to accomplish this goal, and this year was no different. I co- sponsored a bill that will establish the Florida Combat Veterans’ Care Coordination Program within the Department of Children and Families, which will facilitate better coordination of services and improve outreach to combat veterans.

State Employees - Florida has the lowest number of state employees per capita in the nation and our state’s population only continues to grow. Our state employees are rising to the occasion to do the work of the state in our classrooms, prisons, and on our roadways. These workers have seen only one raise in almost a decade and an 11 percent increase in inflation in the same time. Their pay has been sliding backwards for years and a raise is required just to keep up with the cost of living. While we were not able to an across-the-board pay raise, we were able to fund a pay raise for our state firefighters, who are among the lowest paid in the nation. I also helped to defeat attempts to make changes to the Florida Retirement System and the health insurance benefit program, both of which are financially sound recruiting tools for the state.

Department of Corrections - The Senate attempted to fund pay raises for our hardworking corrections personnel, but with so many competing budgetary needs, they were not funded in the conference process. However, 215 new positions were funded with $12 million to alleviate the staffing shortage. Most Floridians have never visited a prison, but here in North Florida, they are a part of the community and are in desperate need of increased staffing, funding and better pay for those who put their lives on the line every day. While the Legislature made progress this year, there is certainly more work to do and I am committed to ensuring all those needs are met.

Roads and Transportation - The importance of maintaining and building new infrastructure cannot be understated. This year we were able to increase the Small County Road Assistance Program, (SCRAP) by $15 million for a total of $43.3 million and add $9 million in the Small County Outreach Program (SCOP) for small cities leaving a total of $68.1 million. Both are vital in helping small and rural with transportation projects for Franklin County including:

Cash Creek Bridge $1,444,428
Cash Creek Bridge Repair $115,554
Carrabelle Airport Parking $215,000
Apalachicola Regional Airport Runway Rehab $661,653
Ellen Van Fleet and 17th Street Widening/Resurfacing $209,268

2016 Franklin County Legislative Budget Allocations:

CR 379 Mill Road to Burnt Bridge Road Pavement Reconstruction $1,728,263
Fort Coombs Armory Renovation Phase 2 $180,000
Fellowship Hall Rehabilitation $50,000
D.W. Wilson Park Improvements $50,000
Mayor Van Johnson Park Phase 1 $50,000
Mayor Van Johnson Park Phase 2 $50,000
Strengthening Resiliency Through the Arts $25,000
Artist in Residence Program $25,000
Community Conservation en Plein Air $25,000
Carrabelle Old City Hall Rehabilitation $50,000
Oyster Planting Program $560,000

**Subject to veto by the Governor

Senator Bill Montford
Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) represents the Florida Senate’s third district, which includes the following counties: Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, and Wakulla. Senator Montford was first elected to the Senate in 2010 and re-elected in 2012. He serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Vice Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and is a member of the Pre K-12 Education, Appropriations, Banking and Insurance and Rules Committees.