It’s time for Citrus County Legislative Days once again and, even though the pandemic has changed some of the normal proceedings, it is still a great opportunity for local government and community leaders to travel to the state Capitol to try and secure funding for needed projects here at home.
“It will look very different this year but I think it will be successful,” said Ardath Prendergast, chamber vice president of operations and the Business Retention and Expansion program.
For one thing, only about 45 people are going to all or part of the doings on Wednesday and Thursday, compared to the normal 100 or so. The chamber typically charters a bus to take the contingent to Tallahassee but COVID-19 put a stop to that.
This year, again because of COVID, movement within the Capitol has been restricted. Instead, smaller local groups will meet state officials in various spots in downtown Tallahassee.
Other changes: the Senate side of the Capitol is closed completely to visitors, according to Prendergast. The House side is open by appointment only to one person at a time who must be accompanied by a staff member from entrance to exit, with no “wandering” or “storming” of the halls, Prendergast said.
The delegation will meet several state movers and shakers during the two days, including Florida Insurance Commissioners David Altamaier, Visit Florida President/CEO Dana Young, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary Adam Blalock, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault and Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson.
The chamber is going armed with this year’s priority list for Citrus County’s legislative delegation: Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto.
Many of the same concerns remain on this year’s list, with roads, trail infrastructure and water quality still paramount. The chamber’s governmental affairs committee came up with the priorities after listening to concerns from business owners, the public and others in the community. They were then reviewed and approved by the chamber board.
Here are some priorities the contingent hopes to impress on legislators this week:
• The need for the Suncoast Parkway extension to eventually continue from its planned terminus at State Road 44 to County Road 486
• The widening of U.S. 41 from State Road 44 to State Road 20.
• Help with funding for a multi-use path along Fort Island Trail
• Continue the septic-to-sewer initiative to ensure water quality
• Help fund $6.2 million to improve infrastructure at the Inverness Airport for creation of a business-industrial park
Prendergast said she is confident Simpson — the current Senate president — and Massullo will push hard for the chamber’s priorities because they carry considerable clout in Tallahassee.
But it’s not just the chamber’s priorities that the folks will be sharing with legislators.
“We’re always keeping up with what’s happening in Tallahassee," Prendergast said. "Some of the issues that are of importance, even though they may not be on our official list of priorities, doesn’t mean we’re not keeping an eye on them."