Bobby Powell: City Planner Hoping to Revise Concealed Carry, Juvenile Prosecution Standards
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Birthplace: Riviera Beach
Residence: Riviera Beach
Education: Florida State University, Master of Science in Planning
Occupation: Urban and regional planner
Previous Public Office: None
Did you know? Is a former champion pole vaulter.
District 88's new representative is no stranger to state electoral politics; he's been serving eastern central Palm Beach County from Tallahassee for at least the past three years.
Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, had served since 2009 as legislative aide to former Rep. Mack Bernard, D-West Palm Beach, who gave up the seat in 2012 for an unsuccessful Senate bid, leaving Powell free to run as his replacement. Before working for Bernard, Powell had been West Palm Beach's city planner since 2007.
“It was a natural progression; I felt it would be a disservice to our district for me not to run,” Powell tells Sunshine State News. “I was very familiar with things that went on in the district. By trade I am an urban planner, and planners are leaders. I saw there was a need for a new, younger, more bold and excited generation to get involved in community service.”
Asked what legislation would be his priority for the 2013 session, Powell mentions three measures, at least two of which are likely to encounter some resistance in the GOP-dominated Legislature.
HB 97 (“Concealed Weapons and Firearms”) would carve out some additional exceptions to the state's concealed weapons laws, allowing local governments to prohibit their presence at certain publicly sponsored events conducted in public venues.
“What my bill does is restore some kind of home rule,” he explains.
HB 1157 (“Health Flex Plans”) would postpone the expiration date for the operation of state-authorized “health flex plans” from July 2013 to July 2018. Health flex plans are state-authorized alternatives to typical health insurance plans. Available to low-income residents who cannot afford insurance, they offer some basic health care benefits, but not the full panoply which traditional plans are required to offer.
“This bill would cover people prior to the Affordable Care Act [“Obamacare”] coming into effect, and as I understand it, even when it comes into effect there are still people who would not otherwise be covered,” he explains. “So this bill provides another level of protection for people.”
Finally, while criminal justice reform is all the rage in the Legislature, Powell's third priority is one that might attract some bipartisan support: HB 543 (“Prosecution of Juveniles”). The bill would make it more difficult for prosecutors to try children as adults by requiring courts to consider a number of factors (for example, whether the offense in question is the child's first) and encouraging resort to alternatives to incarceration.
“Even if these bills are not passed this year, I look forward to the conversation being started,” Powell says of his legislation's prospects. “There's a lot of things that I see that are working differently this year: there's a new class of legislators. It's a completely different field. People are more optimistic about bipartisanship.
“I'm very optimistic that we're going to work together and get some of these things done.”
Reach Eric Giunta at email@example.com or at (954) 235-9116.