Local residents got the chance tonight to tell their local legislators about the issues that are important to them. Three lawmakers held their Pre-Session Legislative Delegation meeting tonight at the Bay County Government Complex. Bay Medical Sacred Heart Hospital's employee pension fund was the hot topic.
Senate President Don Gaetz, and Representatives Jimmy Patronis and Marti Coley fielded comments and questions from a number of organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs, the local Rainbow Push Coalition Chapter, Healthy Families, the Bay County Health Department, and a former Bay Medical employee who worked in the office that distributed the pensions.
The pensions have become a political volleyball since Sacred Heart took over Bay Medical from the county.
County Commissioners are worried because if something happens to Sacred Heart, the county is responsible for the employees pensions.
Patronis addressed the issue, "The county is concerned because this is brand new territory, [a] new direction they're going in, 'Wait a second, do we need to have an irrevocable trust?' The trustees and and the foundation contend that we already have an irrevocable trust in place. Tonight's meeting and tonight's actions were more of a sense of urgency because the delegation was together tonight and this is the only opportunity we have to check the box and ensure if the bill was necessary. If the legislation was necessary, if an irrevocable trust was necessary, that it could be put into play. Nothing more, nothing less."
Tonight's meeting was also the last for Coley and Patronis; Their term limits end next year. Gaetz will be stepping down in 2016.
Gaetz and many in the audience congratulated and thanked Coley and Patronis for their years of service,
"I'm gonna miss them," Gaetz said, "We're gonna have one more session together and they're gonna work hard, and they're gonna bring home lots and lots of good ideas and results for Northwest Florida."
The next session will begin on March 4th and extend for sixty consecutive days unless extended by a three fifths majority.
Representative Patronis will be announcing twenty eight new BP oil spill grants at the Panama City Marina Friday morning at 9:30, which will go to help rebuild the local infrastructure and fishing industry.