Pensacola, Florida
Friday October 19th 2018

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Great Expectations for 2018

By Rick Outzen

The expectations for State Rep. Jayer Williamson (R-Milton) are high for the 2018 legislative session that begins Jan. 9.  Over the summer, House Speaker Richard Corcoran appointed the freshman lawmaker to serve as vice chairman of Government Accountability, the only vice chairmanship of a full House committee given to a legislator in only his second year of office.

With the new position came an office on the second floor of the House Office Building. First-term representatives usually have their offices on the 14th floor. His office is next to the committee staff and the chairman, Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-North Fort Myers). Caldwell is running for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture so this is his final session in the Florida House. If Williamson does a good job, plays his politics well and gets re-elected next year, he could move into the chairmanship.

Williamson relishes the opportunity and appreciates the new access to House resources.

“I want to try to work as hard as I can and try to learn things as much as I can,” he told Inweekly. “Instead of calling and setting up a meeting for the next day, when I want to talk to a transportation staff, I just walk across the hall into their office. I look forward to using that and trying to learn as much as I can because the more I learn then the better that I can serve the people of District 3 and of Northwest Florida.”

In a November interview on “Pensacola Speaks,” Rep. Caldwell praised Williamson’s work ethic.

“Our committee oversees all the transportation issues, all the natural resource issues, local, state, federal government, and military issues,” said Caldwell.  “I’m proud to have Jayer Williamson as a partner to help me oversee that, and maybe cue him up for great things in the future.”

The respect is mutual. Rep.Williamson said, “Chairman Caldwell is to me what you want to be as a chairman of a committee. Just the way that he runs the committee is very much the way that I like committees run. When there’s a moment where there needs to be some humor, he has that perfect dose of humor, but he runs a very tight meeting. It’s very much by the rules, and he recognizes people, gets to the point that you want to make and goes to the next person to make sure that those meetings are run very tight and in a proper manner.”

Caldwell has let him be involved in setting the committee agendas and nearly every other aspect of being a chairman.

“He wants to set me up for the future, so he’s been such a great resource to me,” Williamson said. “It’s just been great for me to have that type of mentor. A guy from Ft. Myers that didn’t know anything about me, and really took me under his wing and let me learn the process under him, and he’s a great person for me to look up to and emulate.”

The vice chairmanship caused his previous committee assignments to shift.

“I stayed on Transportation & Infrastructure, which falls under Government Accountability,” he said. “They moved me off of Children, Family & Seniors, which falls under Healthcare and put me into Oversight, Transparency & Administration, which also is Government Accountability.”

Williamson added, “I sit on the Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations, which is the money side of things and is very much complimentary to the policy side of government accountability. I guess I’m getting a degree in government accountability.”

“Hopefully I can be a subject matter expert for my class and then I can make myself more valuable for the next Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the House after that,” he said. “Then hopefully I can get another vice chairmanship or a chairmanship and just try to really roll up my sleeves and work and learn.”

Williamson has sponsored several bills that are working their way through the House committee process.

HB 725 requires a governing body of local government to post its permit and inspection fee schedules and link to annual building permit & inspection utilization reports on its website. Williamson considers this a transparency bill.

“There’s been some issues across the state where it’s hard to find out where these permitting fees are going to,” he explained. “In some areas these monies are being used on different things that maybe are not appropriate, so we’re going to make them put up on a website the fee schedule.”

He continued, “We’re going to make them put on a schedule where this money is going to, how the money that’s being generated by the building department, how it’s being spent because it should be going back to that public service of inspecting jobs, plan reviews and making sure the structures in those communities are built in a timely manner and adequate to the code. So that’s a bill that I’m excited about.”

HB 755 provides exemption from public records requirements for information obtained by persons and agencies from First Responder Network Authority and Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network. Williamson is concerned that terrorists could find out where the cell towers are in Florida through a public record request.

“In Florida, we have very strict Sunshine Laws so we have to do a public records exemption to make sure that a terrorist couldn’t simply go and do a public records request and find out where these cell towers are across our state and where the infrastructure for this First Net Program is going to be housed and blow those up before they do their terrorist act,” he said.

Williamson believes the bill will have the support of Gov. Rick Scott. He said, “That’s going to be a pretty neat bill that will have us set up if there ever is a terrorist act that happens in the state of Florida, we will have the adequate bandwidth for all of our EMS, first responders and police officers to use that to make sure that they’re taking care of the people in our state.”

He knows that the 2018 legislative session will be  busy because of his new responsibilities, but Rep. Williamson looks forward to the challenges.

“There may be more meeting requests with me being a vice chairman of Government Accountability, but I’m going to try to work as hard as I can to fulfill those obligations because the more things that I take on, the more people that I have coming to me, I think that puts us in better position for me to represent the people of my district and that’s why they sent me there,” he said.  “I’m going to work as hard as I can for the people of my district and of Northwest Florida.”