I recently introduced legislation in the Florida House to start the process of moving the Capital to better serve Floridians - for the next 500 years. Tallahassee was the right place for Florida’s Capital 150 years ago, when the state’s center was between Pensacola and Jacksonville. That criteria (the state’s center) still applies today.
My bill is simple. It calls for: (1) a study commission to identify a better location; (2) moving only the piece of government that people want in person access to - the Legislature and the Cabinet and (3) keeping the state agencies and 99 percent of the jobs in Tallahassee, given e-communications.
A lot has changed in 150+ years. The state and its population has changed dramatically. That is why it is time to move the Capital.
· First, Florida’s Capital does not belong to a town or a county or a university or a region. It belongs to the people of the state of Florida.
· Access is Currently Denied: A radius consisting of about three-hours of driving time around Tallahassee encompasses about 3 million Floridians. That same radius around Orlando encompasses about 15 million Floridians.
· The only people today that can afford to come to the Capital to meet with the Legislature from outside the region are: (1) the wealthy; (2) the lobbyists; and (3) trade groups on their day at the Capital. This is due to the overwhelming time and cost involved in visiting Tallahassee, with airfare sometimes as much as $900 for a one-way ticket or that of flying the length of Florida and three states north of Florida - just to get to the Capital.
· To put this issue of proximity into perspective, I was visited in Tallahassee recently by a group of students with disabilities from my district. Their trip is typical: it included rumbling in a van ten hours each way for two days, spending the night in a Tallahassee hotel, all to visit my committee to testify for 15 minutes on legislation.
· Because of the current location of the Capital, people are in fact denied access to their government and that is wrong.
· Scandal: Studies show that isolated Capitals are associated with corruption and scandal due to an “out of sight” mentality. With the slew of sexual harassment and misconduct claims against several Florida state Senators, it is time we move the Capital closer to the people.
· Cost: Under my proposal, only the Legislature and the Cabinet move and the cost is minimal – a one-time cost of less than 1/4 of 1 percent of the annual budget (0.0025). I say the cost of giving people access to their government is priceless.
· Be Bold. Tallahassee politicians will act only when Floridians demand action. The Capital is yours. Demand access to your government.
State Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, was first elected to the Florida House in 2012.