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Local News

Salzman Preps For Freshman Term

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Michelle Salzman via Facebook
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Florida lawmakers are gearing up for the 2021 regular session, with a full plate awaiting in Tallahassee. WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody spoke with a rookie member of the western Panhandle delegation.

Michelle Salzman – Republican and Army veteran – defeated incumbent Mike Hill in the GOP primary, then won the general election against Democrat Franscine C. Mathis for the House District-1 seat. For Salzman, it’s been a busy time since Election Day.

“Thousands of folks have given us feedback on what they think is important and what they would like to see me do in Tallahassee,” Salzman said. “Meeting with a bunch of leadership in the community and trying to collaborate efforts on things that we could possibly do to move the needle for North Escambia [county] – and trying to do some economic development.”

Salzman plans to hit the ground running with legislation, which would make changes in the governing structure of Emerald Coast Utilities Authority. That stems from a 2018 grand jury report on the agency’s operations, policies, and procedures, which was made public late last year.

“The grand jury reports that ECUA needed term limits; they needed better bidding processes and they needed to be more transparent,” said Salzman. “The grand jury felt like if we had term limits, that we would eliminate some of the complacency that might be there.”

Overshadowing the upcoming session – as it has almost everything else – is the coronavirus pandemic and how it’s now hammering Florida. Awaiting consideration are two COVID-19 liability bills – one in the Senate, and House Bill-7 aimed at retail and small businesses.

“That’s the biggest thing – making sure that we protect our small business owners; and we will have some COVID liability bills coming through that are specific to health care,” said Salzman. “We tried to split those up because it just doesn’t make sense to put everything in the same box. They’re different entities with different expectations of care and safety.”

Safety, infrastructure and education formed Salzman’s campaign platform, and she says she wants to keep them front and center heading into her first term, along with bringing back some money to the First District. An example is further development of the Ellyson Industrial Park area.

“There are some companies that are willing to come in and provide more jobs and bring more manufacturing and whatnot to our community; but we don’t have the infrastructure to move these big trucks and stuff through,” Salzman said. “So, I submitted a plan, a request for a couple of million dollars to try to build that up because it’s a great spot for us to do things like that.”

Another project is making improvements in the Town of Century.

“They have a lot of infrastructure needs that are well beyond the scope of their tax revenues,” said Salzman. “So, what can we do to help them at the state, in partnership with the county and ECUA. And we’re going to submit some requests for some funding for some water meters just to bring that up to date, since that is a priority for the state right now.”

In the area of education, Salzman is backing repairs to buildings at UWF that were damaged by Hurricane Sally; and seeking funds to establish trade schools. And she’s also filed the “Walkability Bill.”

“Kids can’t walk safely to and from their schools; this bill would increase the reach of the ability for them to use school buses outside of using per-pupil dollars to bus the kids – which would free up some of the education funding.”

As a freshman lawmaker, State Rep. Michelle Salzman says she’s being careful about what’s she’s asking for in the upcoming session.

“I am a conservative, so I’m not trying to over-ask and I’m not trying to misuse any of our money,” said Salzman. “But, at the same time, [House] District-1 hasn’t gotten any appropriation dollars in many years. So, it’s our turn to get some of these special projects done.”

The 2021 regular session kicks off March 2, with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ State of the State Address.