Florida State Senator Jay Trumbull (R-Panama City) and Florida State House members Patt Maney (R-Shalimar) and Dr. Joel Rudman (R-Navarre) gathered in the terrace level of Northwest Florida State College’s Raider Central to prepare for the upcoming session and get input from locals and local officials about what their priorities should be in the forthcoming session.
On the agenda, Vaccine mandates, education policy, and other hot-button national issues – as well as more parochial problems like stormwater and roadway infrastructure.
Doug Broxson of Gulf Breeze joined The Okaloosa Delegation via Zoom due to a recent contraction of COVID-19. “I didn’t want my parting gift to the delegation to be COVID,” he told the audience.
Both elected and appointed officials had their say in their four minutes on the microphone – as did several private citizens. They discussed a list of different issues, including:
While everyone who signed up to speak had a say at the microphone – the legislative delegation only took action on two items, called local bills, at the meeting. The delegation decided to move forward with a consensus to move the Dorcas Fire District under the auspices of the Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners and to allow the North Okaloosa Fire District to collect impact fees for new construction in their area.
The broader legislature will most likely approve these decisions by the delegation due to the nature of the local bills.
All other discussion topics were for discussion only.
Although not on the agenda initially, Niceville’s City Manager, David Deitch, was given time to speak to the delegation. He asked for $3 Million for reclaimed water lines that would run out to Deer Moss Creek. The money would help the city get the cash it needs to fund the $8 Million project. The city hopes to receive a $2.9 Million grant from the Northwest Florida Water Management District and plans to use $1.6 Million in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to make up the rest of the cost, Deitch said in an interview after the meeting.
Currently, the city’s newest reclaimed water transmission line extends to Twin Oaks Park at its eastern terminus, the City Manager noted.
Deitch says the city is still working through the permitting process to put reclaimed water piping the $3 Million request would help to cover. He believes the permitting process would wrap up by April, 2024.
The project would bring less expensive, non-potable water to the 500 or so homes already in Deer Moss Creek. The Comprehensive Planned Unit Development (C-PUD) allows up to 3,500 homes to be built on the 1,100 acres set aside for Deer Moss Creek.
“Any efforts you can expend on this project for the City of Niceville and our residents would be greatly appreciated,” Deitch told the delegation at the dais.
The project, once funded and completed, would parallel the path of Spence Parkway from the west until it hit Forest Drive. Deitch says the city is shooting for a completion date in the fourth quarter of 2025.
Many of the elected officials in Okaloosa County showed up for the meeting to either speak or show their support for various causes or initiatives.
In attendance from each city were:
Niceville: Councilman Bill Schaetzle, Mayor Dan Henkel, City Manager David Deitch
Valparaiso: None in attendance
Fort Walton Beach: Mayor Dick Rynearson, City Manager Jeff Peters
Destin: Mayor Bobby Wagner
Crestview: Mayor JB Whitten, City Councilwoman Cynthia Brown, City Manager Tim Bolduc
Mary Esther: Councilwoman April Sutton
Okaloosa County: Commissioners Mel Ponder, Trey Goodwin, Carolyn Ketchel and Paul Mixon. County Administrator John Hofstad and Deputy County Administrator Sheila Fitzgerald.
Okaloosa Clerk of Courts J.D. Peacock was also in attendance. Others may have attended, but your reporter did not see them.
Niceville Councilman Bill Schaetzle voiced his support for the delegation to protect the concept known as ‘Home Rule’, which attempts to devolve as many powers as possible to county and city governments – significantly when decisions would affect cities differently.
Representative Patt Maney Represents most of Okaloosa County, including Bluewater Bay, Niceville, Valparaiso and Eglin Air Force Base. He can be reached here. As of November 2, Representative Patt Maney (R-Shalimar) has filed two bills for the 2024 session.
HB 113 – Relates to tax collection and sales. This bill would, among other things, eliminate a $10 fee to the County Tax Collector.
HB 247 – Relates to the Disabled Veteran (DV) License Plate. The bill would allow veterans to get another plate they are eligible for (think Bronze Star or Afghan Campaign Medal) at some reduced cost – if they are willing to forgo their DV Plate and use that one instead. It also determines what happens to a car or mobile home (as far as taxes and fees) when someone dies and leaves it behind
Dr. Joel Rudman represents Santa Rosa County and parts of Okaloosa County to the north of Crestview. He can be reached here
HB 11 – House Bill 11 would invalidate non-compete clauses in doctor’s contracts with hospitals or other healthcare providers. Dr. Rudman, a family health physician, noted in a conversation he had with Christopher Saul that he had to move from the Niceville area to the Navarre area because of a non-compete clause earlier in his career.
HB 15 “The Right To Rock” Act – This bill would stop venues from cancelling a contract because of an artists use of social media to express views – or their political affiliation – if the venue accepts state funding.
HB 17 – This bill, if passed, would change the mandatory waiting period to buy a firearm to a maximum of three days.
HB 35 – This bill, with exceptions, would require businesses to take cash as a form of payment. Businesses that refuse to take cash would face a civil penalty of $2,500 per transaction.