By Joy Dickinson
Florida League of Cities

Attendance at Legislative Action Days, hosted annually by the Florida League of Cities (FLC), is critically important because of legislation that reduces or eliminates cities’ revenue sources, said Casey Cook, Chief of Legislative Affairs at the League.

At this year’s event, Cook encouraged attendees to remind their legislators that the population of Florida is increasing due to the great quality of life offered here. “Cities are providing more services to more people than ever before,” he said.

Cook shared a list of issues being discussed at committee meetings over the next couple of days and encouraged attendees to attend and testify or fill out a comment card to waive testimony in support of the bills up for discussion.

The League provided attendees with a “thank you list” of legislators’ actions so far this session. “It’s a great way to start a meeting, by acknowledging what legislators have done,” Cook said.

Attendees also were given a card that listed the issues that the FLC supports and opposes. City leaders took these cards to meetings with senators, representatives and their staffs and provided one to the legislator or staff member. The cities used these cards as an outline for discussions.

Cities also were provided a handout to give legislators that showed how three proposed bills would slash city revenues by $1.51 billion in five years. It explained the impact on public safety and infrastructure improvements/replacements as well as parks, libraries and senior centers.

Attendees also were provided with an invitation to a reception that the League was hosting that day for attendees and legislators. The League also provided a Capitol map.

Even when city leaders hadn’t been able to schedule a meeting with their senator or representative, Cook encouraged them to stop by the office anyway. City leaders could ask if their representative was available and, if not, if they could meet with an assistant. If no one was available, Cook encouraged them to leave one of the issue cards behind and staple their business card to it.


Chelsea Reed, Mayor of Palm Beach Gardens, had the opportunity to testify for the first time at Legislative Action Days. Reed joined several other elected city leaders in testifying at the House Commerce Committee and the Senate Transportation Committee. They testified in support of House Bill (HB) 479 and Senate Bill (SB) 688. The bills aim to define terms in state statute to clarify laws regarding mobility plans and fees. They specify that only one local government can charge for transportation impacts, with the government issuing the building permit being the default entity responsible, subject to interlocal agreements between local governments.

Reed gave a one-minute testimony that explained her roles in local transportation and voiced support for the clarity that the bill would offer. When asked later about testifying, Reed pointed out that the committees are where the action takes place.

Having several cities testify added weight to their position that the impact of these bills is widespread. Many city leaders filled out comment cards and waived testimony in support of the bills. David Cruz, Legislative Counsel at the FLC, also testified. The bills subsequently received a “yes” vote from both committees and, eventually, the Legislature. (For a wrap-up of legislative session, see p. 25.)

Attendees at Legislative Action Days went with their delegation of area city leaders to meet with their legislators or staff representatives. In some meetings, each person picked one topic from the FLC card to present. City leaders discussed the specific financial impacts of the issues as well as the cumulative impact on their area.

The groups ended their meetings by asking the legislators or their staff members, “Can we help you in any way?”

Legislators expressed gratitude for keeping them in the loop since they usually don’t see bills before they go to the floor for a vote.

One important factor in having successful meetings is building relationships with legislators before these official meetings, Reed emphasized. For example, she is the Chair of her Palm Beach Network of Elected Women, part of the Women’s Foundation of Florida. Reed described the group as a social setting for people who collaborate across political and jurisdictional lines. Because the group emphasizes privacy, members feel free to talk openly and build relationships. The group also provides an opportunity for mentorships, Reed said.


The City of Jacksonville Beach has shown a united front for the past three years, with nearly the entire City Council showing up for Legislative Action Days. Even the Mayor and Vice Mayor attend unless there is urgent city business, said Councilman Dan Janson. “When a whole city walks into your office, it sends a message, as a city to the representative, that there’s an entire municipality that showed up to say, ‘These are the things that matter most to us,’” Janson said. “It gives us some strength in advocacy for our constituents and our community.”

At Legislative Action Days, the local delegation met with several legislators, which allowed members of the delegation to “champion our causes,” he said.

Janson attended a Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee meeting that was discussing sovereign immunity, an issue that affects every city in the state. “We had a voice there as well,” he said.

Establishing relationships with state and federal lawmakers before you walk into their offices to ask for something has been important to Janson. For example, Representative Kiyan Michael has been actively involved in Project: Cold Case, which assists families of those whose murders are unsolved. Janson spent 28 years working in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office assisting with missing persons’ cases and is on the Board of Directors for Project: Cold Case. This involvement gave him an instant connection with that representative. When you’ve established personal relationships with your lawmakers, “walking into their offices is like walking into their homes,” Janson said. When he picks up the phone to call them, he gets a response because “I’m just calling my friends.”

And advocacy is an ongoing effort beyond Legislative Action Days. Janson emphasizes the importance of advocacy to candidates for his City Council. He tells them it’s not a requirement to get involved, but it’s highly encouraged. Janson also explains to candidates that they won’t really know what the concerns are in their community until they’re in office. At that point, the League will partner with them to advocate for those issues, he said. (To keep up with information about FLC events such as Legislative Action Days, sign up for the weekly FLCitiesConnect newsletter at

Joy Dickinson is the Senior Editor at the Florida League of Cities.