The January 22 NEBA membership meeting featured Senator Bill Montford, with a discussion of the upcoming Legislative session and some issues that are of primary concern. 

His biggest challenge is the rural counties to our west, which even before Hurricane Michael had fewer jobs than 5 years ago.  Their tax base is hurting, health care options are sparse, and with timber decimated there are few options for rebuilding.  The Senator pointed out that the State of Florida has no plan or experience for this type of loss – 85% of timber lost, a fire danger due to debris on the ground – and he hopes to be part of charting the path forward.  One of those paths may be hemp farming – he has small landowners calling his office interested in replacing timber with hemp and he thinks the future for this crop is positive.

The Senator also pointed out that this storm left more debris on the ground – 71 million tons – than all former storms combined.  This debris will affect our north Florida springs if not removed, so he’s introduced a bill to increase the Forestry budget to develop a plan to deal with Hurricane fallout.

Regarding education and school choice – Montford is in favor, but points out that not all parents can transport their child to the school of their choice.  So he wants our tax dollars to be well spent and accounted for, and for every child to have equal opportunities for quality education.  He wants to ensure traditional schools continue to be adequately funded and that we don’t create 2 separate systems – charter (for-profit) & public.

The Senator has filed a bill banning fracking in Florida, stating the risk to our ground water is too great. He’s asking for $50 million of Amendment 1 money over 7 years to address septic tank issues in North Florida, because that would protect the environment.  He is also not a fan of deep well injections, again saying it poses a risk to our water supply.

Overall Senator Montford, who is going into his 9th Legislative session and is termed out in 2020, is optimistic about his committee assignments and ability to serve our region.

Below are the video and pictures taken at the forum. Thank you to Will Haley for taking the video and making it available to NEBA.