Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Local Legislators Vote for Port Split Horne Wants City to Have Control of JPA's Fire Department

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Local Legislators Vote for Port Split Horne Wants City to Have Control of JPA's Fire Department

Article excerpt

In a key step for Mayor John Delaney and his allies, Duval County lawmakers yesterday overwhelmingly approved a plan to split the operations of the Jacksonville Port Authority.

The legislative delegation voted 9-1 to back the plan, which would create separate agencies to run the city's seaports and airports. The full Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush need to approve the measure before it can take effect.

The vote, however, included one caveat: The Duval delegation will take up the plan again next month to consider a proposed change by Sen. Jim Horne, R-Orange Park.

Horne, who was absent from yesterday's meeting, wants to shift control of a port authority fire department to the city. Sen. Jim King said Horne, chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, could try to kill the bill if the change is not made.

"Horne has the power to do what he says," said King, who is the delegation chairman and Senate majority leader.

Delaney, the port authority board and a unanimous City Council have supported the split, which they argue would create better-managed agencies. But the state also needs to approve the plan because the Legislature created the port authority.

With the issue affecting only Jacksonville, the Duval County delegation will play a pivotal role in determining whether the plan makes it through the Legislature this year. Lawmakers from other parts of the state generally defer to the Duval delegation on local issues.

Rep. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican whose district includes part of northern Duval County, was the only dissenting vote yesterday. He said he has questions about whether the split could lead to increased costs.

"I'm not sold yet," Bean said.

Supporters say the split would create specialized agencies that would do a better job of focusing on the airport and seaport operations. …

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