When Florida's 2017 legislative session wrapped up on May 8, State Senator Bill Montford had reservations about the session process but reported many good things for North Florida.
“I am proud to report that North Florida will benefit from many of the legislative initiatives this session,” he said.
Referring to the proposed budget passed late Monday evening, Montford said that “there are many aspects of the budget that I have serious reservations about, including the statewide education funding formula.
“I want to highlight the local projects that my colleagues and I were able to secure. Florida is a diverse state and each community’s needs vary, which is why I focus my energy on those requests that come directly from local interests,” hesaid. “Many projects in this proposal have the potential to add tremendous value to North Florida and I was proud to help my fellow legislators see the value in these local requests.
“Despite a conservative funding year and many funding challenges we were able to ensure the following projects were funded by the Legislature,” he said, noting that the projects are subject to veto by Gov. Scott.
Apalachicola Northern Railroad improvements - $6 million State Route 30 (US 98/US 319) from Apalachicola to Eastpoint roadside barrier - $687,065 SR 300 - Island Drive from St George Island bridge to SR 30 bike path - $431,052 Apalachicola Regional Airport stormwater and drainage aviation preservation project - $359,268 Carrabelle city street resurfacing - $351,352 Apalachicola Regional Airport rehab runway 06/24 Phase II aviation preservation project - $306,075 Carrabelle-Thompson Airport construct security fence aviation preservation project - $210,000 City of Apalachicola historic district project - $50,000 City of Apalachicola youth center roof system project - $34,435 Camp Gordon Johnston interpretive panels - $26,050 Franklin Co. bus surveillance equipment - $11,155 Franklin Co maintenance and compensation of traffic signals on state roads - $4,651
The Senate unanimously passed HB 7077 on Triumph Gulf Coast, which allocates $300 million from the litigation to a board appointed by the legislature and governor to spend on local and regional projects.
“For the better part of the last decade, our communities have been feeling the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This legislation affirms our longstanding commitment to keep these critical funds in Northwest Florida,” Montford said. “It was a pleasure to work with Senators Broxson and Gainer in reaching this milestone. Both of these fine colleagues worked diligently to ensure we had a fair and comprehensive plan. We look forward to working with the Triumph Board.”
Referring to what he termed “common sense education accountability,” Montford said that “together, with a bipartisan coalition of senators, we worked to provide teachers and students with relief from the environment of high stakes standardized tests.
“I was proud of the work product that passed off the floor of the Senate that included elimination of tests and removing the requirement for school districts to use the complex and controversial value-added model to evaluate teachers. However, the bill died in the House and only a few of these much-needed changes were added to a budget conforming bill that encompassed many provisions that will hurt our public education system,” he said. “While I am grateful for the elimination of at least one exam, it came with too many provisions I cannot support. I believe our students and teachers deserve much more and I will continue to fight for them,” said Senator Montford after he voted against a more than 200 page education budget conforming bill that ultimately passed the Senate and House.
On pay raises for state employees, which include $1400 for employees who make under $40,000 and $1,000 for employees whose salary is over $40,000, as well as increased starting salaries for corrections officers, Montford said that “people often talk about running government like a business and I agree. Which is exactly why we have to give our most valuable asset, our employees, a raise.
“Florida has one of the lowest per capita state employee ratios in the nation and one of the lowest salaries. If we want to retain and attract the best and brightest to our workforce, we have to offer a competitive compensation package,” he said. “This year, in working with my colleagues, I was able to secure a base pay increase across the board while holding the benefits and retirement package harmless.”
In referring to the many proposals this year to preempt local governments, including a substantial preemption bill that died in Montford’s committee after he refused to place it on the agenda, he said that “Florida is a richly diverse state and ensuring local control honors the fact that a one size fits all will not work. Local government promotes robust input from voters and I am proud to work against attempts to undermine that system.”
Montford (D-Tallahassee) represents the Florida Senate’s 3rd district, which includes Franklin, Calhoun, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, and Wakulla.