Priorities

Bernard's priority is to bring common sense to the legislative process especially in the budgeting area. Some examples that are really non-partisan:

Bernard's political platform can be summarized by one word: WHiCh

The main pillars of maintaining and growing Florida's economy are : Water, affordable Housing and Healthcare, and Children's welfare and education.

WATER

Florida’s water is in crisis! Our water budget does not balance -- we currently permit more water to be pumped than is being recharged in the aquifer! We are also polluting the aquifer with excessive nitrites from fertilizers and defective septic tanks while excessive pumping is allowing salt water intrusion.

Florida is blessed with abundant rain (150 billion gallons per day) more than any other area on earth at the same latitude. And yet only about 6% of that actually recharges the aquifer (plants, evaporation, etc. use the rest). About 4 billion gallons per day are being used by the 20 million residents of Florida.

The Floridan Aquifer covers approximately 100,000 square miles (includes parts of Miss., Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina) with Florida the base because of its Karst geology (perforated limestone). Florida leads the world in the number of springs (over 1000) and Silver Springs right here in Marion County boasts the largest flow in the world.

The following are some of the actions that would begin to balance our water budget:

  1. Reduce groundwater extraction by 50% -- Place tiered fees on all groundwater extraction - there are some 30,000 CUPs (Consumptive Use Permits) which allow 100,000 gallons per day or more to be pumped from the aquifer and they are not charged for the water used just an annual permit fee !
  2. Reduce fertilizer use by increasing the current nitrogen fee up to $1 per pound.
The fees collected would be designated Aquiver Protection Fees and protected by law for specific purposes related to protecting the aquifer.

Additional actions could include:

(A new law was supposed to go into effect July 1 of this year regulating new septic tank installations. In June more permits for septic tanks were filed than in the last two years!! A court order stopped implementation of this regulation.)

In conclusion: Our dealing with water issues is yet another case of legislative myopia. We are focusing on short term financial gains which ignore the tremendous cost to correct the damage currently being done.

HOUSING

Affordable housing is a necessity if we are to maintain and grow our tourist economy. A person earning Florida's minimum wage would have to work over 100 hours per week to afford a two bedroom apartment. We must raise the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour. Given the increased productivity of workers and inflation this wage should actually be $22 per hour.

It is interesting to note that in 1914 Henry Ford doubled the daily pay of his factory workers to $5 per day. This enabled them not only to purchase the cars they were producing (In 1916 a new Ford cost less than $400!!) but to join the middle class and become tax paying citizens. In 2018 dollars that $5 per day equals $120 or $15 an hour!! We are only 104 years behind Mr. Ford!

This past year the Sadowski Housing fund contained over $294 million dollars but the legislature stripped $185 million from the trust fund to spend on other programs. Bernard will fight to spend these funds as authorized to support county SHIP and SAIL programs that address the issue of affordable housing. These funds are generated by a tax paid on every real estate transaction and should be allocated for the purpose intended.

This year's budget also failed to adequately fund programs for the homeless. The twenty-seven homeless agencies need sufficient funding to address the growing concern of homelessness in Florida

HEALTHCARE

It is a tragedy that our rich nation cannot provide healthcare to all our citizens.Over 40% of the State's budget of 88 billion is consumed by healthcare. Universal Medicare could eliminate costly middle men and reduce prescription costs to the extent that the cost would likely be little more than is currently spent.

CHILDREN

There is no partisan debate that the welfare and education of our children constitute the future prosperity of our nation. The monies spent now are not costs but investments. Florida's public education system needs to be supported fully. This past legislative session increased funding by an embarrassing $0.49 per pupil! And yet the private for profit schools received millions and with less accountability than required in the public sector.

Teacher pay is another embarrassment. We are the third largest state in the nation and yet our teachers rank 46th in pay and benefits. Even Alabama pays its teachers more! We cannot recruit and retain the best teachers without significantly increasing pay and benefits related to job security and retirement.

Our post secondary institutions also need increased funding. Major corporations examine graduation rates and the quality of professional programs when they consider relocating to Florida. Excellent technical training and community college programs are equally important in providing the quality workforce that will grow the economy.

Florida's Lottery program was sold to the public as the salvation for education . However, the legislature consistently underfunds public education in part because of lottery dollars .

Bernard will support a bill legalizing recreational marijuana with a hefty tax devoted exclusively to education. Sufficient provisos will have to be included so that the monies generated will be utilized to enhance public education rather than replace ordinary public funding.

None of the above will succeed without a safe and secure learning environment. Increased counseling services and mental health support need to be provided. We do not need to arm teachers or turn schools into fortresses. Bernard will support a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines; require a license to purchase and own a firearm; require extensive background checks, training, and liability insurance for gun owners.