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Local News

Okaloosa delegation take comments from constituents

okaloosa delegation.jpg
Okaloosa County
Residents meet at the Okaloosa administrative building Monday, Dec. 6 for the Okaloosa Legislative Delegation.

After hearing from residents at the 2022 Okaloosa Legislative Delegation Meeting on Monday night, state Sens. Doug Broxson and George Gainer. and state Reps. Pat Maney and Jayer Williamson decided to send a letter from the delegation to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to clarify what the state can do about the federal employer mandates.

The decision came after hearing from Okaloosa residents, a majority of whom showed up wearing red in solidarity against the vaccine mandates.

Around 100 people gathered in the Okaloosa Administrative Building where they had the ears of the delegation, but no other actions were taken.

“We’re just listening, we’re not debating,” said Maney, who is chairman of the delegation.

Destin Attorney Greg Crosslin represents a coalition of residents who want to see the state take a stronger stance against the federal vaccine mandate set in place by the Biden administration.

“We’re talking about a disease worse than COVID and that’s tyranny,” Crosslin said addressing the delegation. “This is of critical importance … your constituents are ready to fight.”

In November, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation into law that prohibits vaccine mandates and fines employers for violating the laws.

Crosslin alleges there is “dark money” being used to file false claims against doctors and nurses. He said he has about 25 to 30 clients who have been affected by the vaccine mandates, despite the laws.

Louise Coulter, of Shalimar, is a contractor working for Eglin Air Force Base who asked for help with the “discrimination on the basis of health status” on the federally mandated bases.

“We have to carry papers with us to show whether or not we are vaccinated,” she said, comparing vaccine papers to the Star of David.

Other topics from the meeting included funding for the county’s pilot mental health treatment program; affordable housing; and even critical race theory. One Crestview resident encouraged the delegation to support Florida Senate Bill 188 that requires the commissioner of education to develop a civic literacy practicum and “prohibit engaging in protest civics from counting toward credit under the Citizen Scholar Program, etc.”

“The education of children is a prime target from the left,” said Lane Watkins.

Stephen Wise, a Northwest Florida filmmaker, asked the delegation to support incentive programs to bring more film and TV productions to Florida.

“We have great locations and schools, but we have graduates who go and find employment elsewhere (in the film industry),” he said.

Wise pointed out shows featuring and about Florida, including the shows “Florida Man” and “On Becoming a God in Central Florida,” have been produced outside of the state. He asked the state legislators to support SB 946 and HB 217, which both aim to provide tax credits to eligible productions.

Ann Williams shifted the conversation to prisons. She spoke out about aging inmates in their 80s and 90s who could be cared for better by their families who want them home. She asked the delegation to consider how children are sentenced in the state.

“The state of Florida sentences more children as adults than any other state in the U.S.,” she said. “We have over 16,000 children, as young as 14, sentenced to prison and growing up in prison.”

She brought up the case of Tyree Washington, who at 16 was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in a “drug deal gone bad” in 2010 that resulted in a 17-year-old being fatally shot. Washington did not bring the gun nor pull the trigger. He was resentenced to life in 2019 while his former cohort received a reduced sentence.

Williams said she’d like Florida to have a second-chance bill that re-evaluates incarcerated persons who have been in prison for a certain period of time.

“I’ve talked to that young man,” Williams said of Washington, who is now 27. “There is no reason for that man to spend his life in prison.”

Washington’s mother, Angie, also spoke and thanked the delegation for hearing her story.

Senator Gainer said he’s working hard on legislation that would allow for inmates to be able to earn their way out and that it could be expected as early as next year.

The state legislation goes back into session next month.