Sunday, April 11, 2021

Lobbyist Updates Council

An animated Ron Book addresses the Marco Island City Council at the Oct 2nd meeting. (Photo by Steve Stefanides)

It was a passionate and energized Ron Book who updated the Marco Island City Council on Monday evening regarding the upcoming Florida legislative session. He “encouraged” councilors to focus on items that will be given a more favorable nod by the members of legislature as they look to convene on January 9th.

Book is the legislative lobbyist that was hired by former City Manager Roger Hernstadt in 2015 to seek out available funding from state sources that had not earlier been sought out by former councils. In the 2015 session he brought in a half a million dollars from the $60k investment in his time. Book is highly regarded by those in and around the political scene in Tallahassee and throughout Florida. Hernstadt had worked extensively with him during his time in Miami Dade County and in Marathon, Florida.

In both 2016 and 2017 Book continued to successfully lobby his Tallahassee connections to bring forth much needed monies for water/wastewater projects and monies for the replacement of Fire Station 51.

At the October 2 meeting of the council Book would advise councilors he was not there to tell them what specifically to ask for, but to inform them as to priorities for funding he saw would be looked upon favorably by state lawmakers during the upcoming session.

“Storm water, hardening of city assets and beach re-nourishment will all have high priorities,” said Book. He would point out the Speaker of the House has appointed a special committee to travel the state and determine what priorities should be looked at, especially given the impact of Hurricane Irma. Book did point out that only about $52 million is left in the surplus account at the state level, but pointed out several billion dollars in “rainy day” funds may be available to the legislature.

He did compliment the changes in the Florida Building Codes since Hurricane Andrew as to its effect on mitigating some of the storm damage, while calling on city staff to give him input as to what other changes might be necessary to continue to improve codes and regulations as the state looks at the aftermath of the effects of the storm.

Although the House Speaker might desire to stay focused on Hurricane-related legislation for capital projects, Book felt the Senate might take a wider global view as to other areas and projects that need to be done.

The issue of how to move forward on the stalemate concerning the COPCN and ambulance issue with the county, and possible legislative resolutions to the situation were also discussed. Book seemed to offer alternatives such as the creation of a “local bill” rather than trying to change the state law, which was sure to run into some relatively stiff opposition from several fronts.

Although the county legislative delegation has scheduled a meeting on October 18 with other governmental bodies from Collier County, that date would not be convenient for the Marco Island City Council, as it has a regularly scheduled meeting on that same date and would not have time to schedule appropriate discussions regarding their priorities prior to that date. The delegation will come to Marco Island to discuss the council’s priorities at a date to be announced.

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