District 38 state Rep. Randy Maggard has reason to be upbeat.
After all, Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a record $101.5 billion state budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 — making it official during a notable June 2 appearance at Zephyrhills City Hall.
The state budget allocates more than $66 million East Pasco projects alone, including:
- $25 million for new facilities at Pasco-Hernando State College’s Dade City Campus
- $25 million for a new Florida National Guard armory in Zephyrhills
- $6.5 million for water and wastewater improvements on Handcart Road
- $4.6 million for improvements to the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center
- $3 million for improvements to the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport
Maggard — who was born in Dade City and grew up in Zephyrhills — gave a positive account of the latest legislative session and provided other news, as the featured guest speaker for the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce’s June 3 business breakfast meeting at Golden Corral in Zephyrhills.
“We have a lot of good things to talk about,” said Maggard, who represents Dade City, Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills, among other areas, in the Florida House of Representatives.
“Pasco, East Pasco especially, did really well this year,” the state lawmaker said.
Maggard particularly credited the county’s legislative delegation — singling out Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Republican from Trilby and state Sen. Danny Burgess, a Republican from Zephyrhills — for myriad strides made on behalf of East Pasco during the past legislative session.
The legislator otherwise emphasized that the region’s municipalities, businesses and educational institutions have a “prime opportunity” to garner state funding for other future projects and initiatives with the current legislative leadership.
“I can’t say enough about the work the delegation did to help East Pasco,” Maggard said. “This is your time, because you only get these moons and stars to line up so often, when you have people (in the state legislature) from here (in East Pasco).”
Bullish about bills
Maggard detailed several pieces of legislation that he supported, and which ultimately became Florida laws during the recent session.
For instance, he told the audience that the state’s enhanced “right-to-farm” law expands protections for farmers by generally making it more difficult for residents to sue over the impacts of agriculture operations — whether for flooding, burn fields or other reasons.
“You would not believe the lawsuits filed against farmers,” said Maggard. “They get sued more than you’ll ever know.”
The speaker underscored “the pressure” Florida farmers face relating to rapid growth and development — noting the state is now netting about 1,000 new residents per day.
“The farming industry is a lot bigger and we do a lot more than people realize,” Maggard said.
He also talked about a new state law that limits civil liability against businesses for damages related to COVID-19 — creating separate standards and procedures for lawsuits against general businesses and entities versus litigation against healthcare providers.
In other words, the law is designed to protect restaurants, retail shops and other establishments from lawsuits if an individual contracts COVID-19 in those places.
“We had to do something to protect our businesses,” the lawmaker said.
“I can tell you, certain sides were ganging up and getting ready to unload on businesses off of easy and cheap lawsuits, saying, ‘Oh, my constituent got COVID in your establishment,’ and the numbers were startling how they were lining up for that to happen, so I’m particularly proud of that bill that protects the businesses,” he said.
Another bill Maggard helped push through was enhanced civics education programming for public school districts and charter schools, requiring Florida high school students to earn three social studies credits covering U.S. history, world history, economics and U.S. government.
It also requires the Florida Department of Education to develop or approve integrated civic education curriculum that meets certain requirements, including “a comparative discussion of political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential toward the founding principles of the Unites States,” according to the bill’s text.
The lawmaker said the legislation is needed to educate youth on the perils of communism and socialism beyond “what the world paints, that it’s a little rosy picture.”
“We forget what we have. We forget these freedoms,” said Maggard. “If we don’t teach it, maybe it’s our fault.”
The state representative also addressed the governor’s signing HB1, the so-called “anti-riot” bill, which increases penalties for bad actors who turn otherwise peaceful and constitutional protests into violent assemblies where law enforcement officers are attacked and public and private property is destroyed.
The bill signed into law in mid-April came in the wake of civil unrest throughout the country over the last couple years.
Maggard observed of the highly-publicized legislation: “(It’s) basically saying, you’re not going to defund your police department, and if you want to protest, it’s fine to protest, you have that right, but you’re not going to burn down the Golden Corral to do it, you’re not going to burn down the bank across the street to do it.
“There’s a lot of ways you can (protest) in this country, freely. You can walk up and down this road, but you’re not going to burn anything down. That’s not freedom of speech, that’s called rioting. Rioting’s against the law. We all work hard for this. we all work hard for what we do every day, and I think it’s a great bill, actually. It’s sad that we even have to have a bill like this.”
Maggard also shared his viewpoint on the controversial law prohibiting transgender athletes from competing in female sports, dubbed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.”
Signed by DeSantis on June 1, the law specifies an athletic team or sport that is designated for females, women, or girls may not be open to students of the male sex, based on the student’s biological sex listed on the student’s official birth certificate at the time of birth.
The bill applies the requirements to interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural, or club athletic teams or sports that are sponsored by a public secondary school, high school, public college, or university institution.
Maggard said the law “doesn’t allow boys and men to play in girls’ sports,” a comment which a drew rounds of applause from Zephyrhills Chamber members in attendance.
The lawmaker acknowledged the transgender community’s perspective, but also remarked, “How about the other 99.5% of folks? My granddaughter, I’m thinking of her during these conversations.”
The entire measure brought about what Maggard labeled as “interesting testimony” from all involved parties.
“That was a bill we got a lot flak over, but it’s just right,” he said.
“You would not believe the hate e-mails and phone calls we got from that. It was quite interesting,” he said.
Maggard elsewhere described being “most proud of” of a pair of other bills, one related to reclaimed water reuse technology requirements for utility companies; another related to auditing requirements and increased scrutiny of independent special taxing districts.
Meanwhile, Maggard said DeSantis deserves “big credit” for keeping the Sunshine State open and restrictions relaxed amid the coronavirus crisis.
“Not everybody liked it, not everybody was for it,” said Maggard, “but I can tell you, at the end of the day, ask the rest of the nation, when we talk to all of them, they want to be Florida. “People want to go back to work, people didn’t want to quit working, and the kids wanted to go back to school.
“I think we need to thank our governor for standing up, because I’ll tell you what, he took a lot of criticism, a lot of hit from that,” Maggard said.
Published June 16, 2021