During a legislative update at the Indian Trail Improvement District meeting Wednesday, State Rep. Pat Rooney (R-District 83) announced that his newly drawn district will cover almost all of The Acreage.
“We were tasked with redistricting, which we do every 10 years,” Rooney said when recounting the recent legislative session in Tallahassee. “That, I would say, took up a majority of our time. We obviously passed the budget, but a lot of our tie-up there was spent on redistricting, trying to come up with these districts that are going to match with population shifts, as well as complying with recently passed amendments 5 and 6, which said that the districts needed to be compact, contiguous, not favoring one party over another or one incumbent over another, all the while complying with the Federal Voting Rights Act. It’s a very complicated process.”
Rooney noted that the Redistricting Committee held meetings all over the state taking public input.
“I think they had 27 meetings taking in maps from groups or the public, and trying to incorporate all those maps into a collective map that both the House and the Senate presented to the Florida Supreme Court,” he said. “The good news is the House side, our map was passed by the Supreme Court unanimously, 7-0.”
In that map, Rooney’s current District 83 was redrawn into the new District 85.
“The good news for all of you in The Acreage that like me, I will be representing pretty much all of The Acreage,” he said. “I ended up losing Palm Beach, Singer Island and almost all of Jupiter, which is unfortunate, but I think it does help, instead of representing about a third of The Acreage, I will now represent pretty much all of it. That’s the good news, and hopefully I will have the opportunity to represent you next year.”
The Senate map did not pass on the first go-around, and lawmakers had to go back to Tallahassee for a special session last month. “Their map has since been resubmitted to the Supreme Court,” he said, explaining that the justices will spend 30 days reviewing the map and either affirm the Senate map that was sent to them or redraw the districts themselves. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens there.”
Rooney said their second big item, the budget, passed at about $70 billion, about the same as last year, but not with as big a deficit to eliminate.
“That was a good thing,” he said. “Last year, we were dealing with a $4.6 billion hole. This year, it was about $1.8 billion. While that really is a lot less, last year we tackled it with a lot of low-hanging fruit that we were able to cut, because the mandate from the citizens of Florida was, ‘You deal with the budget and the deficit, and however you do it, we don’t want you raising our taxes.’ That meant getting into some of the programs and trying to find out ways we could cut out some of the waste. Last year, it was generally a little bit easier because, government generally being as big as it is, we were able to find $4.6 billion. This year was tougher, to be quite honest with you. We had many groups come to us asking for relief, asking for help. You try to do the best you can, and in some cases you’re not able to get as much as you want.”
Among the areas he was happy to find funding for included $21 million for public libraries. “With a federal match, that brings it up to about $30 million, so our libraries should be happy, at least for the next year,” Rooney said.
Another area they were able to find money for was Everglades restoration. “Being a former member of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board, we were always trying to find enough money to deal with some of the projects that we have to keep what we have left of the Everglades going, not just for tourism reasons or aesthetic reasons, but that’s going to be a major asset for us in terms of water supply as we go forward into the next 10, 20 or 30 years. We were able to get about $35 million for Everglades restoration.”
The legislature also addressed some business issues he was happy about.
“That’s really the main reason I ran, trying to help businesses, specifically small businesses,” he said, noting that the governor signed a jobs package the day after the special session ended. “One of the bills was the Workforce Alliance. The other bill dealt with unemployment, basically looking at unemployment as more of a re-employment, giving some incentives and job training to people who have been on unemployment for a significant period of time.”
Part of that package was a bill introduced by Rooney that reduced some of the regulations that businesses face when they try to get permits or licenses.
“The governor has targeted about 1,100 rules that he would like to see eliminated,” Rooney said. “We’ve dealt with about 270 in this specific bill that I was working on.”
The focus is on rules that are duplicative or obsolete.
“All in all, I think that package is really going to do some things that are going to help business,” he said.