GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -The 2022 legislative session starts Tuesday sending our North Central Florida representatives to Tallahassee with bills ready for the law-making process. TV 20 sat down with 8th district State Senator Keith Perry who represents Alachua, Putnam and parts of North Marion County.
“And so we don’t want to have policies that can cause businesses too close,” said Perry. SB 620, originally presented by 58th district Florida Representative Lawrence McClure allows a business to sue county or city governments.
If county or city elected officials are to pass or amend an ordinance that reduces a business’s profit by at least 15%, then the business can sue to recover those lost funds.
“You know, one of the things we can do, we can go up to Tallahassee, we make decisions. Those decisions, that can be really Draconian to another business, or to a taxpayer, or to an individual,” added Perry. “You know, we’re not the ones suffering that, businesses do that and we’ve already seen a huge problem and an impact from Covid and other issues that have negatively affected those.”
The proposed bill requires the business to be at least three years old and for business owners to prove in court their profit loss. County or city officials will then pay for those losses as determined by a judge.
“And typically, what we see in almost all of these legislations is you may have large corporations like a Walmart or a Publix or a Lowes or CVS that don’t particularly like policies and legislation, but they can handle it,” said Perry. “But the mom-and-pop businesses that got no recourse and they’re out of business and I think we’ve already seen over the last forty years of growth in Gainesville we’ve seen businesses— mom-and-pop stores have closed by the hundreds and dominated by large corporations.”
“So, we owe it to those small businesses that we do everything we can to help protect them.”
When it comes to controversial bills, Perry expects proposals on gun reform, transgender rights and abortion to stir the pot, but those topics aren’t his main focus.
“Probably, last year, it was brought up a couple times in debate about corporations in the state of Florida suffering financially. I thought that was one of the most discouraging things I’ve heard,” said Perry. “That we as lawmakers that are elected by the people would be more concerned about what a corporation would think about our policy and what they’re going to do.”
“We owe it to the citizens of the state of Florida to do what we think is the best policy. To listen to them, to understand and not to put some more credit on a corporation like Delta or whoever else that might be. I think that was the discouraging part and I’m hoping that we do not have undue pressure from corporations on how we affect policy.”
Perry says he supports the major economic drivers in his district. The educational bodies of the University of Florida and Santa Fe College and multiple healthcare systems employ thousands of people in North Central Florida.
“Always for this area, University of Florida, Santa Fe College, UF Health. We rely, this area relies more on state funding per capita than any other county in the entire state. So, it’s critical that we go up there and fight for that. The University of Florida, if you go back 50 or 60 years ago, everybody in Tallahassee, probably the majority graduated from the University of Florida. Now we have 12 universities and so the battle is intent.”
Specifically, when Perry gets to Tallahassee, he plans to garner support for a new music building on the University of Florida’s campus.
“My capital priority is a new school of music at the University of Florida. If you think about us, we’re in the top 5 which is a pretty amazing accomplishment. The music school is one of the things that’s lacking, and I’ve toured every single building just about on campus and I think that’s going to be a huge addition if we can get really nice music building”
When it comes to community engagement— Perry asked people to do their research on the bills he proposes, as well as those he supports. He says there’s more to the legislative session than big-ticket bills.
“The other important topics sort of just get pushed to the other side, and it’s really important for the constituents to know what we’re doing. They should go to our website, they can go to the Senate or the House website, they can look up bills we’re running,” mentioned Perry. “They can look at other bills that are running based on category and I think it’s just important that we have the constituents engaged in a broader thing because there’s so many things that are more mundane. Insurance policies, we have three-quarters of the homeowner’s insurance companies lost a lot of money, $1.7 billion over the last year aggregately which means all of our insurance is rising on your home or if you live in an apartment you don’t pay it directly.”
“Those are critical things for the state of Florida and there’s hundreds of things like that.”
Among Perry’s main priorities are first passing SB 638: The Early Childhood Music Education Incentive Pilot Program that is meant to extend a current program for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd-grade students to take a music class. He’s also working to pass SB 342: The Juvenile Diversion Program Expunction that was once SB 274 and vetoed by Governor Ron DeSantis last year. That bill offers graduates of a juvenile diversion program an automatic expungement of their criminal records.