Both Bills Withdrawn

The February 18, 2016 meetings can be viewed here.  For the Committee of the Whole, click here.  For the subsequent Council meeting, click here.  The Citizen input takes place during the final hour of the first meeting and the first half hour of the second.  File size: 900MB.

2016Feb18: Both Jax HRO bills withdrawn

By A.G. Gancarski February 18, 2016

On Thursday, the Jacksonville City Council met for its Committee of the Whole meeting regarding expansion of the Human Rights Ordinance. The expectation going in was that both the Tommy Hazouri and Bill Gulliford iterations of the legislation would be withdrawn.

In the hours leading up to the meeting, an intriguing narrative surfaced: whether Hazouri’s withdrawal motion would be blocked or not, by opponents of the HRO who wanted to force an up or down vote.

Sure enough, such procedural drama occurred. And quickly.

Hazouri spoke up early. “I’m very passionate about this bill for one reason only. I want to see Jacksonville move forward.”

Then, he moved for withdrawal of his bill. Then, Gulliford said that he was willing to withdraw, if it was a “permanent withdrawal.”

Gulliford then opposed Hazouri’s withdrawal, citing “intractable entrenchment on both sides” on the issue, wondering what would change between now and the future date of re-introduction.

“Let’s vote down any move to withdraw either bill and finish the process,” Gulliford said.

Katrina Brown spoke next, saying that she “did not run on the HRO bill,” adding that “it’s disrespectful” that the integrity of she and other Councilmembers was questioned by Folio Weekly on this issue, with the implication being that their votes were for sale.

Brown cited harassment of her Facebook page, and through emails, on this issue, saying she didn’t “appreciate it.”

“My focus has been the crime in my district,” Brown added.

Aaron Bowman, a co-sponsor of the Hazouri bill, spoke next.

“We all agree that discrimination is bad. But we disagree on what to do about it,” Bowman said, reiterating his intention to draft a bill that addresses these issues.

Reggie Gaffney spoke up next, talking about “prominent individuals” in his community telling him that he’d be a “one term Councilperson” if he supported the bill.

“This just made me struggle to realize that we need to move forward,” Gaffney said, adding that it’s been a “very stressful two months” and that he would be “one term regardless of how [I vote.]”

John Crescimbeni noted the pressure on both sides, expressed support for Hazouri’s withdrawal motion, but expressed concern that the Gulliford referendum bill would not be withdrawn.

Reggie Brown noted that “the bill is not going away,” and that he was “offended” by the assertions in the Folio article.

Brown noted that “one bill should not stick around contingent on the other,” and that “we cannot continue to dig a dark hole in Jacksonville,” asserting that he wants the bills to move forth independent of each other.

VP Lori Boyer spoke up next, saying that a withdrawn bill could be refiled, saying that an up or down vote provides no assurance of “finality,” in light of re-vote and referendum possibilities.

“Make your decisions based on the legislation before us,” not “moving targets,” Boyer said.

Hazouri spoke up, animated, describing the “plight of the LGBT community for too dadgum long,” and that his commitment remains unchanged.

Then, Katrina Brown had questions for Hazouri, saying “I just don’t like the flip flopping.”

“I never talked to anybody about” what Council members said or did during the campaign, Hazouri said, adding that “I don’t flip flop on these issues.”

“I don’t see the votes passing it. That’s an easy one. I know there are still questions out there… I want to make certain that there’s at least an understanding of what the bill does,” Hazouri said.

Garrett Dennis spoke next, proclaiming this a “tough issue” and decrying “accusations” and “hits” in the Folio Weekly.

“I will not support withdrawal” of either bill, Dennis said. “We need to vote it up, or vote it down, and move forward.”

Al Ferraro: no to withdrawal. Then Council President Greg Anderson spoke up, in support of withdrawal, offering support for the mayoral directive, and because the bill sponsor is requesting withdrawal.

“It’s a matter of honor,” Anderson said, “and I will support Mr. Hazouri.”

Gulliford was unmollified, noting that there were five months of deliberation on the last one, and that “there’s nothing that inhibits amendments coming forward.”

Gulliford noted 11,270 emails from 2012 that he received, and that deferral was an option.

“Procedurally,” there are no inhibitions to the process.

“Let’s get it done,” Gulliford said.

Hazouri’s withdrawal motion passed 12-7.

Then, the movement to withdraw the Gulliford bill.

Gulliford noted that his “decision to withdraw was [conditional] on Hazouri withdrawing his permanently.”

Crescimbeni wanted to know more about Gulliford’s “concern” relating to withdrawal.

Gulliford’s concern: “the timing issue,” as past May, it could not be on the ballot.

“I will move to approve 2016-1,” Gulliford said, a bit of hesitation in his voice.

“We’ve heard the pushback against a referendum on this issue,” Gulliford said, decrying the influence of “moneyed lobbyists” and the  “tyranny of the minority,” and pressure to support the HRO as a condition of financial support for their campaigns.

A referendum, Gulliford said, presents “finality on this issue.”

“With almost 10,000 petitions collected,” Gulliford said, “opponents probably think they have the votes to defeat it.”

Gulliford said he would “accept the outcome” of a referendum.

Matt Schellenberg noted that even if the bill is voted down, a referendum drive continues.

Aaron Bowman cautioned against referendum, saying “it is going to bring outside money, outside influence… and we’re going to be a spectacle on the international stage.”

Then, Reggie Brown spoke against the referendum, advising for a pause.

Lori Boyer noted “all kinds of squirrely things that happen when bills are on the agenda,” adding that she was “sincere” in her concerns over the sales tax referendum, her “#1 priority.”

“I know [the HRO] is critically important to those with passions on both sides,” Boyer said, before asking what ballot Gulliford would want his referendum on.

For him, it’s a “matter of timing.”

The legislation drafted places the referendum on the August ballot.

Boyer, like Bowman, does not want to see Jacksonville become a home “to advocates on both sides, campaigning loudly,” and that “the result may not be the city’s result.”

Still, any Council decision would beget a referendum or a court decision, in her eyes.

Hazouri: “there may be a referendum down the road. But so what?”

Hazouri noted that Mayor Curry wouldn’t want a referendum on the ballot, before noting that in 250 other cities that have these legislation, there have been no court challenges.

Crescimbeni noted that the Schellenberg term limit bill was withdrawn, not to cloud the ballot, and that this referendum creates another issue.

Schellenberg noted that if the referendum tanks, it won’t be eligible for the ballot again until 2018.

“If you take away the citizens’ rights… at some point in the year they will not be able to put it on the ballot,” Schellenberg said.

Boyer wondered, then, if there could be a vote to postpone. An extensive discussion of parliamentary procedure followed. Gulliford then relented, saying he’d vote for withdrawal.

And it passed, 18 to 1. Aaron Bowman was the no.

Both bills were, said Anderson, “recommended for withdrawal.”

At a “special meeting of Council” after the Committee of the Whole, that withdrawal will be codified.

Anderson noted that he supported the amended bill in 2012, and that he appreciated the “civil debate” this time out, which had the “goal of separating fact from fiction.”

“It is wise to pause at this time,” Anderson said, to see how the mayoral directive proceeds.

After that, a period of very heated public comment followed.

The highlight: the Liberty Counsel’s Roger Gannam speaking, then being asked by Crescimbeni if he was “on the clock.”

Gannam’s answer embodied evasiveness, and he found it “difficult to answer” the question because he is “on salary” and in Jacksonville “because of his knowledge of the city.”

Crescimbeni asked Gannam if he was a “registered lobbyist.” More evasion.

Gannam went back to sit down, yet by then it didn’t matter. His argument, and that of those who support him, effectively prevailed.

The Hazouri bill, and over a year of campaign rhetoric about the issue, stalled out.

Just after 6:30, the bills were brought up for the purposes of withdrawal.

Garrett Dennis signalled his opposition to withdrawal on either bill.

13-6 in favor of withdrawal of the first bill. 13-6 on the second.

2016Feb18: Two bills to expand Jacksonville's HRO withdrawn by Council

Councilman Tommy Hazouri and Councilman Bill Gulliford removed their competing bills Thursday

By John Engel Posted: 3:21 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 http://www.wokv.com/news/news/local/two-bills-expand-jacksonvilles-hro-withdrawn/nqSQc/

Two bills to expand Jacksonville's Human Rights Ordinance to include the LGBT community in anti-descrimination legislation were withdrawn at a city council meeting Thursday. 

Councilman Tommy Hazouri's proposal would have brought the expansion to a council vote, while Councilman Bill Gulliford's bill would leave the decision up to voters with a referendum.

The council voted against expansion of the HRO in 2012. 

Hazouri decided to withdraw 2016-2 after receiving blowback from the council, specifically Councilwoman Lori Boyer who wanted the bills removed until Mayor Lenny Curry's expansion of anti-discrimination legislation for city employees could be evaluated.

"I'm not here to say 'take it or leave it,' that's not what this is about," Hazouri said. "This is not about you or me today, this is about a community."

Following Hazouri's announcement of his intent to withdraw the bill last week, Gulliford said he too would pull his measure off the table.

While the majority of the council appeared to understand Hazouri's intent to reintroduce the bill in a few months, Gulliford told the council at Thursday's meeting that he no longer wanted to withdraw his bill because he thought Hazouri would be permanently pulling his proposal off the table.

"This continues to be the controversy that sucks the air out of this chamber," Gulliford said.

After much debate from council members, Gulliford conceeded that withdrawing both bills was "procedurally" the right decision and withdrawl was approved with an 18-1 vote. 



We are not done yet with this matter.  Stay tuned.

This is not a setback for LGBTs, but a political maneuver, a type of political crime.

After the February 04 meeting Mr Hazouri realized that he has too few votes to override a mayoral veto.  So, he ignominiously withdrew the bill for the calculated purpose of preventing a citizen referendum in August or November.

Duval citizens should be outraged by this deliberate attempt to suppress the will of the People.  And, the people should remember this dishonorable act at the next election, and sooner.

Messrs Hazouri, Bowman and Love intend to return in a few months with a slightly-modified bill that gains more veto-override votes.

It takes 13 votes to override a mayoral veto, and just 7 to sustain a veto.