Marion delegates meet to hear local agendas

Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson, Rep. Stan McLain, Rep Joe Harding, Sen. Jennifer Bradley, Sen. Dennis Baxley and Sen. Keith Perry, left to right, listen to speakers during the Marion County Delegation at the Klein Conference Center at the College of Central Florida in Ocala on Oct. 7. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]
The Marion County Legislative Delegation held a public hearing at the College of Central Florida (CF) on Thursday Oct. 7 to hear from local constituents and organizations ahead of the next legislative session, including a proposed Downtown Ocala Event Zone and a new health science center to expand CF’s nursing program.

The delegation is made up of members of the Florida Legislature whose districts include portions of Marion County.

“The legislative delegation holds a public hearing each year to afford local officials, members of the public, and other interested parties the opportunity to present legislative proposals or express opinions on state issues,” said delegation chair Jennifer Bradley in a prepared statement.

With more than 100 people in attendance, State Senators Jennifer Bradley (R-Fleming Island), Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) and State Representatives Joe Harding (R-Williston), Yvonne Hayes Hinson (D-Gainesville) and Stan McClain (R-Ocala) heard from multiple groups and individuals on their priorities related to numerous issues.

Marion County Commissioner Kathy Bryant addressed the delegates and highlighted nine priorities she hoped they would consider, including funding CF’s proposed Health Science Technology Education Center.

Marion County Public Schools Superintendent Dianne Gullett, School Board Chair Nancy Thrower and board members Allison Campbell and Kelly King highlighted five legislative priorities of the board, including expanding student access to technical and vocational programs and increasing transportation funding.

Ocala City Councilman Jay Musleh emphasized multiple priorities, including the Downtown Ocala Event Zone, which would allow for the sale and consumption of alcohol by licensed vendors in a specified area during specified events. The delegation voted 6-0 to move forward with the Downtown Ocala Event Zone bill.

Musleh also highlighted some of the city’s other priorities, such as affordable housing and addressing opioid addiction.

The delegates also heard from local entities and organizations including CF, the Ocala Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership, the Fort King Heritage Foundation, the Community Foundation Ocala/Marion County and others.

Individual citizens also addressed the delegates on subjects ranging from vaccine mandates to critical race theory in schools.

The next regular session of the Florida Legislature will convene Jan. 11 in Tallahassee.

Posted in Community, Government, News

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