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John Thrasher, Travis Hutson, Plus One: Airing Out Flagler’s Legislative Delegation

| January 11, 2013


Rep. Travis Hutson and Sen. John Thrasher are now Flagler County’s full legislative delegation, and they’ll be Milissa Holland’s inaugural guests on Milissa Holland Live on WNZF Friday morning. They’re seen here at a meet-and-greet for newly elected representatives at the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday evening. (© FlaglerLive)

By Milissa Holland

Every year elected officials, special interest groups and residents throughout the County gather in the Flagler County Commission’s board chambers to get their three minutes.  Three minutes to plead their case on why their priorities are more important than those of others in the room.  I have sat through many of these, wondering if these meetings are just a formality or something more.  I am referring to our annual legislative delegation meeting, when Florida House and Senate members partly elected by Flagler voters listen to more than two dozen pleas from local concerns.

milissa-holland-sigFor the last decade, the delegation was made up of four representatives—two state senators and two State House members. This years was very different. There were just two lawmakers (one senator, one House member). The reason: The 2010 Census, which led to redistricting, giving Flagler fewer representatives but, we hope, more clout.    That meant no longer being split up like a wishbone with our representatives.

So now how do we back up what we fought hard for and accomplished?  Does having two representatives mean better representation?  Think of it this way: previously, House and Senate members weren’t relying on Flagler County voters to hold on to their seat each election cycle.  Well, now they are.  Who are those two Representatives? Sen. John Thrasher and Rep. Travis Hutson. The same Hutson who defeated me in the race for that seat.

And Hutson, along with Thrasher, will be my guests on my  inaugural radio show on WNZF Friday. (Call me live from 10 to 11 a.m. at 386/206-WNZF, or 206-9693).

For one hour, in what I hope will be an informal follow-up to that December delegation meeting, we will be delving into the issues that are facing our community.  Now, I understand that we will not be able to solve all of our problems in that time period. But it’s a good start.  I have always said that a good state lawmaker represents us in two different ways.  One is by tackling statewide issues.    Another is by managing the local issues of the day directly relevant to the lawmaker’s constituents.

There are many issues we could talk about on the air, but I will be focusing on a few that I know are of significance to our local leaders and residents.  The short-term rental problem dominated the December delegation meeting, with people on both sides of the issue speaking about their position and how it’s affecting them.  I am very familiar with this issue and dealt with it as a commissioner.  It should be a matter of local control. But a bill passed in the 2011 legislative session took away a remedy for the county to resolve this issue. That’s what usually happens when special interests get involved.  To be fair, the bill was trying to help homeowners facing foreclosure to continue to own their home and generate revenue to pay the mortgage.

There were unintended consequences.  I have not heard any of the residents complain about rentals. Their complaints are over using residential homes as a business, in a neighborhood where homes were sold as single family dwellings.

From the county’s perspective, we had made several attempts to resolve this issue locally.  It is is a significant health and safety issue for our first responders.  Our building department  approved these homes as single family dwellings with that expectation.  Yet some of these rentals are being marketed as having seven  or eight bedrooms and having the capacity to sleep 20 to 30 people at a time.  They are being rented weekly.  These residential units are not currently equipped to handle a fire emergency, and our guys, our firefighters, would have no idea how many people are inside the dwelling. It’s an obvious danger to the dwellers. It’s an unnecessary danger to our first responders, who now have to worry not just about fighting a fire, but figuring out if everyone inside has been accounted for.

Beyond the danger to life and limb, imagine the damage to Flagler County’s image if we were to have such a tragedy—all from lack of proper oversight that the state is preventing. Florida tourism won’t suffer, so the state doesn’t have much of a vested interest in proper regulation. Flagler tourism would suffer greatly, and blame will focus on Flagler.

I will be delving into this issue and seeing if there is a resolution that would be beneficial to all parties involved.

Another request at the December delegation meeting was to require online travel companies already collecting the Florida bed tax and sales tax to remit those funds to the state and to counties.  Right now these out-of-state companies are not doing so.  The state is losing out on millions of dollars each year. This is a significant loss of revenue when our  state and local governments are trying to find revenue sources to offset the  burden for services to our residents.

These out-of-state companies are profiting from the direct benefits they get in the state, while skirting their responsibilities.  I will be watching this issue closely in particular because I believe our state policy makers will be looking at possibly doing away with the property tax and going to a formula of using the sales tax to fund the budget. We’ll talk about that possibility in a future show.

Then there’s the matter of allowing state prisoners to be housed in our local jail—or having them forced onto our local jail.  As a community that has had significant discussions regarding our need to expand our existing facility to meet current needs for space, I cannot think of a piece of legislation that would be more detrimental for us if this bill is passed.  It costs a tremendous amount to house an inmate daily: $91 a day, up from $75 a day in 2005 (the sheriff’s budget for the inmate facility is $5.1 million, its average daily inmate population is 154).  Now the state wants our residents to take on an additional burden.

We would be better served by an overhaul of the incarceration system to give our local law enforcement officials the ability to meet our needs.  After all we are not Miami Dade, and our crime rates differ from theirs significantly.

A few other issues generated discussion in December and may get broached on Friday–the realigning of Old Kings Road, statewide legislation for synthetic drugs and Internet cafés. There is also new legislation being proposed in regards to red-light cameras.  I know this is an emotionally charged issue right here in our community.

So often we have complained about what Tallahassee is doing to local governments.  Now we have a real opportunity to have meaningful discussions that move our agendas and priorities forward.  It’s incumbent on us to keep the momentum going.  That way we are not sitting here next year fighting the same battles instead of taking on new ones.

I got the sense after speaking with both Sen. Thrasher and Rep. Hutson that we are very much on their radar screen, and they are looking to us to help support them to accomplish our goals.  I will be looking to you the readers and listeners to seek your input on these items as well. Feel free to share your comments below, ask the questions you’d like to hear posed to your representatives on Friday, and join the discussion. It’s a new day, so let’s get the conversation started.

Milissa Holland, a Flagler County commissioner from 2006 to 2012, is host of Milissa Holland Live on WNZF 1550 AM, Fridays at 10 a.m. Her column will appear here every Wednesday. Reach her by email here, on Facebook or on Twitter. While she’s on the air Friday morning between 10 and 11, call her at 386/206-WNZF (or 206-9693).

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11 Responses for “John Thrasher, Travis Hutson, Plus One: Airing Out Flagler’s Legislative Delegation”

  1. DWFerguson says:

    The State has made Economic Development a priority.There are several agencies in place (with huge financial resources/tax payer funds)that address it’s goal/objective. Our County has an investment in Economic Opportunity. How can our delegation help us locally to access these resources, avoid duplication of effort and overlap and truly show meaningful GROWTH in this critical area. Business friendly and OPEN for business should be our prfile/ reputation. I remain committed to this activity and welcome any assistance the state can provide. We need all the support Tallahassee can muster for Flagler / Palm Coast.

  2. Pamala Zill says:

    YEAH! MILISSA! I do believe,most things, Happen For aReason, but, not everything. YOU ARE A WINNER, NO DOUBT!! GREAT! ALL THE BEST, PAMALA

  3. Edman says:

    Milissa, Please don’t miss the opportunity to discuss our “stand your ground” law and how we can control the use of military style weapons by civilians. Thanks.

  4. Magnolia says:

    My question would be, “What can we do here in Flagler County to make it easier to do business here?” I know that’s a local question, but other cities in the state ARE growing their commercial base and we are not. Why?

    Are there ways the state can help us?

    I would also like to see state laws in place which protect communities with such a large retirement and unemployed base from having taxes, fees, utilities hiked beyond their capabilities. Until we have a larger business presence here, taxpayers here need protection from what the state and feds are doing to us.

  5. confidential says:

    Obviously can see clear that partisan fanatism prevails against common sense. We lost the chance to have our locals Milissa Holland and Heather Beaven sincerely representing our interest in Tallahassee and In DC. Now lets see what your elsewhere, elected ones, will do for you all. Outsourcing at all levels is what greatly helps, to keep our county in the dumpster.

  6. Nikia says:

    Why do our local lawmakers keep pushing tourism here when we know that this industry provides mostly low income and seasonal employment. We need real industry/business growth in Flagler. Businesses have been pushed out for far too long!

    • Who can say says:

      It seems like more is spent on promoting tourism than is being taken in. Not much here other than the beach to offer.

      Before we know it regulations will be put in place as to how many people can visit at a time, or per season.

  7. downinthelab says:

    Cabbage wrasslin’ just ain’t the same on the radio.

    I predict Milissa by two falls…

  8. I don't think so says:

    Like Thrasher tried to nicely say, his place is not to be involved in local issues. Some people are just for more regulation, right Milissa?!?! Thrasher and Hutson I’m sure will focus on the issues that impact the majority of the people they represent and do a fine job.

    I personally don’t want someone telling me how many people can be in my house. Some people have nothing better to do than take head count.

  9. Colleen Conklin says:

    Millissa – good luck with the show this morning. Please ask about returning local control. Specifically, ask about the start date for school. The legislature passed a statute that prohibits a school district from starting the school year prior to two weeks before Labor Day. This causes a tremendous headache for scheduling the end of the semester at our High Schools. This may not sound like a big deal but when you are discussing the scheduling or End of Course exams and mid-terms it becomes a situation that is just not good for kids. The other question I’d hit on is the Charter School Movement and equal accountability.I’d really like to hear what our representatives say about what our state may look like after 10 years of being ravished by the Corporate Charters schools who have moved in and taken over the movement in the name of profit not parental choice.

    Have fun – just a few thoughts! – Colleen

  10. PJ says:

    Excellent show, I wish you my very best!

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