2021 Legislative Session Will Be Different Due To The Virus

Palm Beach County’s legislative team presented an ambitious list of hopeful goals next year in Tallahassee to the Palm Beach County Commission on Tuesday, Dec. 15, accompanied by a caveat that the legislature will be more concerned about pandemic issues than anything else.

Director of Intergovernmental Relations & Community Engagement Ed Chase said that the county takes part in weekly conference calls with the state regarding COVID-19 and other issues.

“Our delegation is extremely informed and engaged on all things virus related,” Chase said. “Overall, we want to make sure that continued local testing is successful. We want to make sure that farmworker testing does continue. We want to assure an equitable vaccine distribution, and we want to make sure that our eligible distribution facilities in Palm Beach County can be used as vaccination locations.”

Chase said he is watching for passage of the next Heroes Act that will ensure an equitable distribution of funds that belong to the state, local governments and businesses.

On the economic development front, he noted that Commissioner Melissa McKinlay has engaged staff on the Glades Regional Master Plan with improvements on affordable housing, stormwater upgrades and mitigation of muck soils, which is one of the reasons construction is so expensive in that area.

County staff will continue to work with local chambers of commerce and the Economic Council of Palm Beach County to support full funding of the job growth grant fund, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, Chase said.

Assistant County Administrator Todd Bonlarron said that county staff will continue to support the treatment of opioid use and addiction disorders, with an emphasis on youth services and expectant mothers. They will also support the efforts of State Attorney Dave Aronberg and Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson with the Sober Homes Task Force and pending legislation that they are working on regarding fine collections, background screening of owners and uniform fire standards for facilities.

Bonlarron said affordable housing has been one of the top priorities of the county for years.

“We were unfortunate that it was vetoed last year,” he said. “It was replaced with some CARES funding, but we’re going to continue to work on making sure that’s funded.”

Staff will also continue to work on statewide homelessness programs, as well as additional funding for the county’s homeless resource facilities.

“This is going to be a very different session than what we’ve experienced in the past,” Bonlarron said. “Palm Beach County Days is not going to be the same as we know it. Walking through the halls of Tallahassee and catching members on the fly is going to be done a little bit differently. We’re not exactly sure what this session is going to bring in terms of those communications, those interactions, but our lobby team is prepared for it.”

He said the legislature is still in the process of figuring out how to conduct business.

“We hope that we can bring home a lot of successes in the 2021 legislative year,” Bonlarron said.