BONIFAY — Members of state legislative delegation representing Northwest Florida, Representative Marti Coley and Senator Don Gaetz held a public hearing at the Holmes County School District Office on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
The purpose of the public hearing was for delegation members to hear public comments on proposals for the 2013 Legislative Session.
“The first reason we’re here is if there’s any local bills that would effect just Holmes County and if there was such bills then they would begin in the House of Representatives and then the speaker pro-tem would introduce the bill and then they would come to the Senate if the House agreed,” said Gaetz. “There have been no local bills that have been proposed by any local government, any local group, local individual or family. Subsequently there will be no local bills effecting Holmes County proposed for 2013 session.”
The second reason, said Gaetz was for him and Coley to hear from the local people of Holmes County.
“There will be a lot of issues to come before the legislature, like they do every year,” said Gaetz. “There are over 3,000 bills that get introduced in the legislative session and, with God’s mercy, only 10 percent of them will go on to become law. Most of the rest of them are some pretty dumb ideas.”
One of the most important aspects, said Gaetz, is to get an accurate “read” on public input.
“So we’re here today to listen to your concerns, your questions, your insights and help inform us as we grow in the House and in the Senate,” he said. “Representative Coley; we’re very fortunate to have her as our state representative in this area. She is the speaker pro-tem elected by the House of Representatives to be the number two person in the House working very closely with the speaker in the Senate agenda and moving the House of Representatives forward.”
The first to speak was Holmes County resident Joe Kegan.
“I would like to improve the support of the freedom of unwarranted surveillance act,” said Kegan. “A is a bill to protect individual privacy against unwarranted governmental intrusion through the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles commonly called drones, and for other purposes.”
Next to speak was Holmes County Supervisor of Elections Debbie Wilcox Morris.
“After the 2012 elections with issues that were experienced it seems throughout the state there’s going to be a review of the election laws again and I would just ask that you, after looking at early voting, that you would give the Supervisors of Elections more flexibility in where we put up early voting,” said Morris. “Right now we can only the city halls and libraries and the law says we shall have it in our office. We have a very small elections office and early voting went well for us but I think we would be able to better serve our voters if we were able to have it maybe at the Ag Center so we could have ample parking and more space.”
She requested that the law state that it “may” be held at the supervisor of elections office.
“There are some counties that have large supervisor of elections offices and can accommodate, however in Holmes County we do not have a large office,” she said. “Also in reference to electronic poll books; I know that after the 2010 elections we had an issue with the electronic poll books. That is so efficient for our voters and the only information that a poll worker will see is the same thing they would see if they were using a paper precinct register.”
Morris said it was a time saver and reduced the chances of error.
“They’re not having to flip through pages to find that voters name, they don’t have to worry about them accidentally signing on the incorrect line and when someone else comes in and it shows that they’ve already voted and then they have and issue,” she said. “With the electronic precinct registers our data is updated in real time. I hope if this issue comes up again that the legislature will support it.”
Morris said she had to retrain poll workers in address verification.
“They can no longer ask you if you still live at 116 Redwood Drive and that concerns me especially now that we have a split in one of our precincts with the redistricting,” she said. “We have a district that was split into two congressional districts and if they can’t make sure that the voter’s address is correct they could be issued an incorrect ballot and it could impact the outcome of that election.”
She said the last issue she had was the referendum ballots.
“The 11 constitutional amendments this time I think was what created a lot of the issues throughout the state with long lines,” said Morris. “Our voters did an excellent job educating themselves. I think we had more people vote on those amendments this time then we’ve ever had, but we had a two page ballot, front and back and fortunately everything went well for us.”
She said she felt sympathy for those counties where the supervisors of elections were “slammed” for their extensive lines.
“I don’t think it was a fault of theirs,” she said. “They didn’t have adequate early voting locations that they could choose to use and then there was the length of the ballot. It went well here because voters educated themselves and came prepared for the most part.”
She said with the extension of the early voting days the only thing was to do away with the Sunday prior to Election Day because that’s the day they usually deliver their electronic equipment.
“It will give us one day to go out and set everything up,” she said. “We don’t have that many people here that vote on Sunday so for us it would be better if we had that extra time to make sure everything is set up and ready.”
Both Gaetz and Coley encouraged all those who wish to contact them with questions, comments or concerns they could find their contact information at www.flsenate.gov.