Eric Anthony Rodriguez

Eric Anthony Rodriguez

The legislature passed laws this past session that have made national headlines and that have the potential to affect our lives here in North Florida tremendously. Last week, I covered some of the important issues that the legislature did and did not tackle this session. This week, I will be talking about three topics that were controversial and created much debate in Tallahassee.

The legislature passed and the governor already signed SB 7030. It is a comprehensive school safety bill, but detractors have labeled it the “armed teachers” bill. I don’t understand why so many are in opposition to teachers being armed. It is sad that this is a necessary discussion in America today, but to dismiss the mass school shootings that began in 1999 as isolated incidents is extremely unrealistic. The bill allows school districts and individual teachers to opt out of carrying firearms, but this provision was not enough to placate detractors of the legislation. Governor DeSantis stated that the training required for teacher guardians was more comprehensive than what is required for the Jacksonville’s Sheriff’s Office. If the teachers who are protecting our children with firearms are college-educated, trained beyond what is required of police officers, and pass rigorous background screening why would someone object to their help in protecting school children from harm?

The teachers who volunteer for this worthy cause are the ones who get the worst end of the bargain. Teachers and other school personnel who volunteer and are selected for the guardian program will receive no extra compensation for doing so. Teachers are already required to do the job some parents are unable or unwilling to do. Now some teachers will be called to do the work of police officers on top of their teaching duties. Imagine if your employer asked you to have extensive firearm training and to help with security around your job location without receiving any extra compensation. Most folks would tell that employer to go fly a kite, but that is exactly what the legislature has done with this school safety bill. They have permitted some teachers to now join the other school personnel who will assist with security at school locations in some school districts for no extra compensation. As always, Florida teachers will be asked to do more but not receive any extra pay for doing so.

Governor DeSantis has not yet signed SB 7068, but I have a feeling he will. This bill authorizes a study to determine the feasibility of three new toll roads. This bill could quite possibly affect us here in Suwannee County more than anything else passed this legislative session. One of the three new proposed highways would extend the Suncoast Parkway north from Tampa to the Georgia line. The areas being considered for this road are just south and west of Suwannee County. If this road expansion continues as planned it will forever change North Florida. Anyone who has driven on I-75 recently understands why some new roads are needed. While I think this plan could very well help ease congestion on our roadways, I wonder about the long-term implications. It would be ironic if Branford or Mayo had an exit off of the Suncoast Parkway and grew larger than Live Oak.

I applaud the legislators for combating the rampant overcharging that drug companies had thus far been able to do with impunity. DeSantis is right when he states we pay more for prescription drugs than anywhere else in the world. I love the idea of importing the same drugs from Canada for less money. I don’t care if every greedy drug company who profited for years on the backs of sick Americans goes bankrupt. The plan will probably not get approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so this is a symbolic victory. I hope people from all sides of the political spectrum are tired of being taken advantage of by the health care industry. Drugs aren’t the only thing that are priced unfairly. Our entire health care system charges far more that other countries. I hope our elected officials find a way to combat this theft that has gone on for far too long.

Eric lives in Suwannee County and is a public school educator. He is an independent contractor. You can reach him at miamistyle8@gmail.com.

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