Changes to Florida’s much-maligned voting laws and help for struggling Glades communities are among the priorities that Palm Beach County state lawmakers say they plan to push for during the spring legislative session.
Palm Beach County commissioners and local legislators met Thursday to discuss their priorities for the state legislative session that starts in March.
The Legislature took much of the blame from local leaders for Palm Beach County’s long early voting lines and delayed final vote count during the November election. That’s because the Legislature reduced the number of days allowed for early voting this year and also lengthened the ballot by adding a host of proposed constitutional amendments that exceeded the usual word count limits.
On Thursday, local lawmakers said that changes are being considered that include increasing the number of days allowed for early voting and giving counties more flexibility in where they can hold early voting – in order to accommodate more voters and shorten lines.
“Changes are coming,” state Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Boca Raton said. “We know we had problems here.”
State Rep. Patrick Rooney Jr., R-West Palm Beach, serves on a legislative committee considering elections changes. Rooney said he expects the Legislature this spring to approve “comprehensive” elections legislation.
“We are getting serious about it,” Rooney said.
Palm Beach County also wants help luring jobs and improving crumbling infrastructure in economically-struggling Glades communities.
That includes seeking state help to pay for improving roads, fixing leaking water lines and building new housing as well as providing state aid to companies willing to move to Pahokee, Belle Glade and South Bay.
The Glades communities likely have the “worst roads in the county” and need improvements to land industrial expansion hoped for in the towns beside Lake Okeechobee, according to state Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach.
The Glades also want state help developing the “inland port” proposed on sugarcane land. The idea, years in the making, calls for creating a cargo distribution hub linked by roads and rail lines to coastal ports.
But the inland port is no guarantee, warned county officials, who said the state also needs to deliver more economic incentives for other businesses and improve educational opportunities for the Glades.
County Commissioner Jess Santamaria said the state needs to pay for more vocational training at the Palm Beach State College campus in the Glades, which he said would help residents make “themselves self-sufficient.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun