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Salzman: Redistricting a priority in '22 session

Florida House of Representatives - Robert Hunter

The 2022 legislative session gets underway next Tuesday in Tallahassee. With the 2021 session and a special session in the books, Rep. Michelle Salzman has some thoughts on what’s up this year.

“If anybody has any questions about any of the legislation at all, if you have any concerns about any of the bills, feel free to reach out to my office, my staff,” said Salzman. “And we will certainly get an appointment set up and listen to your concerns.”

Salzman, a Pensacola Republican, returns to the statehouse with the experience of last year’s regular session and a pair of special sessions to draw upon this year.

“I was pretty set up for success; I had a really great first session,” she said. “I think what’s going to be different this time is, I won’t be so anxious to understand or anxious to know what happens next. Once you’ve done it a couple of times, you’re more at ease with it and you can focus more on the details of what you’re actually voting on.”

First and foremost in a lot of people’s minds is how lawmakers will respond to the of COVID-19’s Omicron variant. Florida is a hotspot, but Salzman says stringent measures will be in place at the Statehouse for the 60-day session.

“We already have our seats a certain distance apart; you have the option to wear masks, we have a nurse on call that can do all kinds of testing and triaging,” Salzman said. “We also have a full staff of cleaning people. They disinfect everything after every single committee meeting and all the seats.”

As far as the actual work cut out for legislators in ‘22. Job one, says Salzman, is redistricting.

“It’s certainly an honor to be a part of this process, as it only happens every 10 years; so not every lawmaker gets to be a part of it,” said Salzman. “That’s going to be the priority, and also we’re going to continue our agenda for redoing the testing requirements for public education – something that’s been needed for a very long time.”

There are a number of measures to be considered that are either sponsored, or co-sponsored, by Salzman. One is House Bill 475, the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Education Bill. In essence, it teams up the Alzheimer’s Association with the state Health Department and other agencies to provide information on the disease.

“And provides some of the early onset signs and prevention-type pamphlets; we know that the most vulnerable in Alzheimer’s and dementia and just about all health care-related topics are the folks that are in the lower-income bracket,” Salzman said. “The ones that can’t really access the private health care system.”

As the committee meetings ramp up next week, the priorities outlined by Gov. Ron DeSantis will be a part of them all, according to Salzman. It’s the same conversation, she adds, that the governor would have with leaders in both chambers.

“We have a great partnership [with] the senate president and the house speaker, as well as the governor’s office,” said Salzman. “But we also have a great partnership with all of the members. They really do give us a lot of say in the budget – a lot of say in what is and what isn’t passed. It’s truly a team effort.”

One need do nothing more than turn on a radio, television, the Internet, or pick up a newspaper to see the political vitriol that’s nationwide these days. But Pensacola state Rep. Michelle Salzman says that’s not really the case with them.

“I can tell you that what happens in Tallahassee is nothing like what happens in [Washington] D.C.; we do bipartisan bills all the time,” she said. “There are conversations that are very divisive, but a majority of what we do in the state legislature really is a bipartisan effort.”

Elsewhere, Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking for nearly $1 billion to restore Florida’s Everglades system and improve the quality of the state’s water bodies. And Visit Florida, the state’s public- private tourism and marketing arm, could see an extension in its operating life under two proposals.