What are my positions?

Environment:

GOAL – Restore funds to Land and Water Conservation Amendment, including fully-funding the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.

Background – Our wild spaces are being paved over at an alarming rate. Industry and development also endanger our water supply, springs, and pristine beaches. We have a tremendous opportunity to preserve large tracts of land in the central part of the state that are still largely undeveloped or are maintained by ranchers and farmers. Acquisition of those lands would be a lasting legacy to the future residents of this state and a crown jewel in what makes Florida a great place to live and visit. Please get acquainted with conservation organizations like the Florida Wildlife Corridor and 1000 Friends of Florida. On June 15, Florida Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ruled in favor of environmental organizations that the land conservation constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters requires funding to be used for land acquisition, restoration and management of those lands, not for other purposes. Florida Wildlife Federation, St. Johns Riverkeeper, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Sierra Club, and Manley Fuller filed the original lawsuit against the state. There is economic impact as well. Tourism is one of the primary drivers of Florida’s economy. What does it say to visitors when our lakes and rivers are awash in algae, our beaches in dead fish, and when tar balls from the Deepwater Horizon Spill wash up onshore?

Campaign Position – Support Judge Dodson’s ruling that Amendment 1 money, specifically the Land Acquisition Trust Fund money be restored according to the will of the 75% of voters who approved the amendment in 2014.

Public Education:

GOAL – To make Florida a leader in public education by providing adequate funding for school infrastructure, teacher salaries, security, transportation and other needs.

Background – Article IX, Section 1(a) in the Florida state constitution states “The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require.”. For far too long, the state has underfunded public schools and cried foul when some do not succeed. In addition, there has been a siphoning of funds away from traditional public schools and into public charter schools, oftentimes operated by for-profit management companies.

Campaign Position – In some districts, additional funding may be needed from local government impact fees, millage rates and sales tax referendums. We hear constantly about the “record” education funding in the 2018 state budget. The reality is that state funding for public education dropped off the cliff during the recession in 2008-09 when per-pupil spending was more than $10,500. It dipped as low as $9,000 in 2013 according to ‘A Decade of Neglect’. To brag about being just above 2009 funding levels is disingenuous at best. Cost of living increases over the 10-year span far out-pace the tiny increase in state funding in the 2018 budget. Furthermore, during the recession, the millage rate allocated to public schools was reduced to 1.5 mils from 2.0 mils. Even with the economic recovery, the legislature has not restored the 2.0 mils. This campaign supports the Hillsborough County School District’s 1/2 cent sales tax referendum. With clearly outlined goals and an appointed oversight committee, the sales tax referendum is the fastest path to providing relief to schools suffering from huge building maintenance backlogs and failing air-conditioning systems.

Charter Schools: This campaign supports a future that may have public charters in the picture but siphoning money away from traditional public schools is not the right approach. Furthermore, charters must work in support of traditional public schools and not in competition with them. For example, a public charter could serve a niche community such as students with disabilities or that speak English as a second language. They should not be competing with public schools for students.

Home Rule:

GOAL – Resist state intrusion into issues best dealt with at the local level.

Background – In a government of, by, and for the people; local government is more aware of and responsive to the will of the people on local issues. Citizens have much better access to their local governing bodies than they do to their state government. More local control encourages participation and diminishes disenfranchisement.

Campaign Position – Preemption is a growing movement that is handicapping our local governments. While there are certain policies that should have state-wide uniformity, it undermines our local governments to be unable to pass ordinances that might conflict with state policy. Vacation rentals should be governed by local governments, not the state. Noise ordinances should be dealt with locally.

Renewable Energy:

GOAL – Make Solar the primary source of Florida’s energy, thereby eliminating much of the environmental damage caused by fossil fuel emissions, hydraulic fracturing and oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico.

Background – A Florida Public Service Commission vote in the spring of 2018 allowed solar company Sunrun to lease solar installations to home owners. This is a step toward solar proliferation in the state but does not go far enough to allow for 3rd party sales of solar energy. Currently, only utility companies are allowed to sell energy. What’s up with that? So, if I have a home that I rent, and I put solar panels on it, I can’t sell that power to the renter? Doesn’t seem very capitalistic to say that only approved companies can deal in energy. Seems like a monopoly. We already don’t have any choice when it comes to our utility provider.

Campaign PositionSolar Energy – We live in the Sunshine state for crying out loud. Solar should be our primary source of energy both public and private. We need to identify the obstacles to solar proliferation in the state and remove them. That includes both working with and demanding more of public utilities, removing state legislators that impede progress and legalizing sales of third-party solar. Private citizens and businesses should be able to engage in the marketplace of solar energy production and sales.

Living Wage:

GOAL – Achievement of the Public Policy goal of the 2004 Minimum Wage Constitutional Amendment –  “All working Floridians are entitled to be paid a minimum wage sufficient to provide a decent and healthy life for them and their families, that protects their employers from unfair, low-wage competition, and does not force them to rely on taxpayer-funded public services in order to avoid economic hardship.”

Background – In 2004, 71% of Florida’s voters passed the state’s first minimum wage which was set at $6.15, $1.00 higher than the Federal minimum wage which had been Florida’s in the absence of a state minimum wage. Annual increases were to be determined by increases in the CPI index. That index has increased by only an average of 2.2% which has brought us to the current level. Clearly, the cost of living has increased more than the CPI which is heavily weighted by food price increases. There is a current citizen initiated constitutional amendment campaign to gather the petition signatures necessary to place a new minimum wage amendment on the 2020 ballot. If that amendment reaches the ballot and is passed; the minimum wage would be increased to $10 in 2021 and by $1 each year until it reaches $15.

Campaign Position – Our current state minimum wage of $8.25/hr. is not a living wage. We need to do better by our low-wage workers so that they can help stimulate our local economies and be less dependent on public assistance. We, in effect, subsidize large corporations that pay substandard wages because their employees turn to public assistance. I do not support an instant hike to $15/hr., however I support an immediate hike to $10/hr. with a more rapid method of increasing it than the current CPI index which amounts to less than 25 cents a year. I would also exclude anyone under 18 years old. A $15/hr. minimum wage would price workers under 18 out of the market.

Small Business:

GOAL – Make the state more conducive to small business.

Background – Big box stores and giant corporations, whose economies of scale enable lower product costs, are making it hard for small businesses to survive. Small business is the backbone of our economy and part of the picture of the American Dream. Most small businesses fail in their infancy trying to compete.

Campaign Position – How can we make the playing field a little bit more equitable for small businesses? First, we could implement a progressive business tax rate. Currently, all C-corporations pay the 5.5% business tax. While most small businesses are either S-corps or LLCs, there’s no reason why we can’t ask larger companies to pay a slightly higher rate than the smaller ones. 5.5% is a very modest rate to pay in order to access Florida consumers and tourists. We could use criteria to determine the size of the business using both number of employees and gross revenue. Additionally, we should create an advocacy system that can help small business owners negotiate the many licensing, permitting and inspection hurdles. This campaign supports better wages in the state but also recognizes that a steep hike in minimum wage might imperil small businesses. Provision could be made for smaller businesses to pay a lower minimum wage, especially if the minimum wage goes up to $15/hour.

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