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Rep. Jayer Williamson looking for strong finish

Florida House of Representatives

With the Florida Legislature convening its 2022 Legislative Session this week, WUWF is checking in with the region’s representatives in Tallahassee.

Next in our series is District. 3 Rep. Jayer Williamson of Pace, who began by discussing his recently announced plans to end his political career for now.

“I’m not gonna seek reelection. I’m gonna come back home and make this my last session in the Florida House,” Williamson stated.

Representing Santa Rosa County and part of Okaloosa, Williamson is serving his third term in the House. He says it was a look into the future that led him to the conclusion that this was the right time to pivot away from politics to spend more time with his young family.

“With two years in the House left (on an eight-year term limit), if I ran again, I’d possibly be able to go into a senate seat, that’s eight years. On ten years, my children will be graduated from high school and I just don’t want to miss that.”

What Williamson will not miss is what he called a “toxic” political environment at every level, on both sides of the aisle. He says elected officials need to remember their job is to serve all of their constituents.

“I represent Republicans, Democrats, Independents, people who don’t care about a party affiliation, people who don’t vote; I represent all of them. And, that’s what I’ve always tried to do for the last five years,” he said.

Currently in his early 40s, soon to turn 43, he has not ruled out a return to politics later in life. But, as he begins his last session for now, he has no plans to coast to the finish line, with numerous appropriations projects and bills that he’s like to see through. We begin with House Bill 1035, regarding the incorporation of municipalities.

“All that bill does is it adds a requirement that people who want to incorporate or create a city, it makes it state law that they must have a non-binding referendum and have 60% approval by the voters before that bill can be filed,” he explained.

Williamson says it’s a policy that he uses when there’s a request for additional taxing authority. Navarre Fire and Pace Fire met that requirement, and current efforts to incorporate Navarre will have to as well.

“If I’m going to run a bill and decide that I’m gonna put my name on this bill that’s going to give you the ability to raise the taxes of the people that I represent, I want to make sure the people want that,” he declared. “So, I got to thinking that this would be great for the whole state of Florida.”

Another piece of legislation Williamson wants to see through is HB 333, co-sponsored by District 2’s Alex Andrade. The bill would authorize qualified physicians to perform examinations and evaluations through telehealth for medical marijuana renewals.

“Most people that use medical marijuana are terminally ill,” he said.

“They don’t want to get out into the public. They don’t want to have to go sit in a waiting room around a lot of other people. It’ll give them the ability to get on the computer and to do that evaluation through telehealth. And, it also helps rural areas or people that don’t have the money to get to the doctor.

Among the items of work that must be done during the 2022 Legislative Session is reapportionment. As a member of the Redistricting Committee, Williamson was hesitant to comment, saying only that the he was confident the panel would abide by the constitutional amendment requiring fair districts.

He did weigh in on the state budget, a proposal of $97 billion in the House, saying Florida appears to be in good shape.

“I chair Infrastructure and Tourism Appropriations (Subcommittee), so I have FDOT, Highway Safety, the Department of State, and Highway Patrol, Space Florida, Visit Florida and all these great things, whether it’s economic development, roads, or cultural grants and museums; so, I think revenues will be good,” said the District 3 representative.

“We’re going to continue to put money into our infrastructure, whether it’s our seaports or our airports or our roads, and to me that’s an essential part of government and I think it’s going to be well funded.”

On more controversial issues such as tighter abortion restrictions, the Republican lawmaker follows the party line, declaring that he would be onboard with any bill to protect the sanctity of life.

On the election front, Williamson says he’s open to discussion, but is generally supportive of GOP efforts to put tighter controls on voting access.

“Whether it’s Democrats, Republicans, Independents or any party in between, you should get one vote and your voice should be heard. So, whatever we can do to make sure our elections are secure and make sure they’re fair, I’m all for it.”

When it comes to local projects, Williamson declares that he’s cut from the cloth of the “old-school” Panhandle guy who’s about bringing home the bacon, adding that he wants to a strong finish to this last legislative session by securing as much local funding as possible.

“I don’t want that money going to Tampa or to Orlando or to Miami,” he said.

“I want that money coming right here to Santa Rosa County, to Escambia County, to Okaloosa, really anywhere in the Panhandle and will do everything I can to bring every penny home.”

His appropriations requests include $5.4 million in Medicaid disproportionate share hospital funding for Sacred Heart Hospital, $5.1 million for critical roof replacements at the University of West Florida, $1.5 million for Okaloosa County Water & Sewer for a potable water elevated storage tank in Florosa, and more than $765,000 for Nursing Expansion at Pensacola State College.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.