Duval County

Council vote on combating messages of hate sparks drama over competing bills during debate

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville City Council passed a bill aimed at stopping messages of hate from being projected on public and private property Tuesday night.

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One might have expected the passage of the legislation to resonate as a moment of unity, but beneath the surface, Councilmember Matt Carlucci (R-Group 4 At-Large) argued politics over credit for the bill created a divide.

“If I had done a bill and knew she introduced it first before me, I would not have tried to get in front of hers. That happened and I think that’s concerning to this council and we need to abide by the spirit of the council rules,” said Carlucci during debate Tuesday night.

Last week Action News Jax did a deep dive to answer whether Council President Terrance Freeman (R-Group 1 At-Large) or Councilmember and Republican mayoral Candidate LeAnna Cumber (R-District-5) first brought forth legislation aimed at combating messages of hate.

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The two filed identical bills.

Both make unauthorized projections on private and public structures a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a minimum $2,000 fine.

According to the Office of General Counsel and time stamps on the legislation, Cumber was first by all accounts.

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Councilmember Carlucci sent a letter Monday, calling on Freeman to withdraw his bill and for council to support Cumber’s version.

“This disregard for the integrity of Council processes and absence of professional courtesy sets a precedent, which corrodes our trust in the process … and introduces an unprecedented use of authority by a Council President,” said Carlucci in the letter.

Freeman ignored the request, moving forward with his bill Tuesday night.

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Freeman stated he first reached out about drafting the legislation last Monday, a day after Cumber had contacted General Counsel about drafting her bill, but asserted he didn’t find out another councilmember was working on similar legislation until later that day.

Freeman also said he was not aware it was Cumber who was working on the competing legislation.

“For anybody, anybody, to think that I stole somebody else’s legislation, it has been clearly articulated that I worked within our council rules and policies to get to where I was at,” said Freeman during debate.

Freeman’s bill passed on an 18-1 vote.

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Councilmember Cumber voted yes, but made her feelings about the alleged effort to cut her out of the legislation clear.

“I’m really glad that we’re passing this bill. It’s a great bill, and we really need to do it. I know it’s a great bill because I did write it, and I’m excited that we can pass it tonight,” said Cumber.

An amendment offered by Freeman was attached to the bill Tuesday night.

It allowed for the names of co-sponsors on council to be listed on the final product in alphabetical order.