This is the first time I have ever met with a representative at their office. I was so happy I was with this great group of people!
Forward from Indivisible-Mandarin:
Summary of the 2/28/2019 meeting with Senator Aaron Bean written by Richard and Nancy
We met with Sen. Bean at his office in the old Town Hall on Centre Street in Fernandina Beach.
The meeting started at 10:00 am; we expected to have only ten minutes with Sen. Bean, but his next meeting canceled so he gave us a full half hour of his time. Ken Organes started the meeting by explaining that Indivisible Mandarin was a “progressive” non-partisan group consisting of a range of nearly 400 voters–Democrats, Republicans and Independents. He explained that we canvassed, handed out vote by mail forms, made phone calls, registered voters and before the midterm, urged voters to go to the polls. Sen. Bean seemed to get hung up on the term “progressive,” which he admitted connoted “Democrat” to him. He visibly relaxed when he realized we weren’t there to “yell at him.” Ken introduced each of us and we said a word or two about our background. After Ken’s introduction, he passed on the packets containing our one-page bills. The friendly mood was established when Ken told Sen. Bean that we found we could support his bill S 258 Genetic Information Used for Insurance Purposes. He explained why he had introduced this bill and answered a few questions. Ken also established that we had done our homework when he noted that Sen. Bean had received multiple awards from child advocacy groups and had identified on his Senate webpage biography that “family” was his primary interest outside the job.
Having established that we were willing to agree with some of his legislative acts, Sen. Bean now seemed more open to listen to us as we introduced some bills that we expected he would not be willing to entertain. Richard introduced HB 7030 and praised those parts of the bill that proposed funding guidelines for “hardening schools.” But he stated firmly we felt we had to oppose the part of the bill describing how teachers and school personnel would receive training to act as “guardians” in schools. Sen. Bean jumped in at this point and stated that he felt this part of the bill was necessary to securing the safety of students and that the teachers who voluntarily offered to serve as school guardians would receive four months of training in using a weapon (that number does not appear in the bill; it only refers to annual training). Richard outlined our concerns calmly and without heat: that teachers’ and the majority of the public are not in favor of this part of the bill; that teachers are professional educators and are not trained as law enforcement; that we need trained law enforcement who know how to use weapons and engage an active shooter; that these trained guardians must do their duty and not hide outside of the building as they did at Parkland (he agreed with this). We all made comments in support of Richard’s line of reasoning. Susan raised the issue that a few months of training a year is insufficient to enable people (teachers or school personnel) who have no previous experience killing people to aim and kill an armed assailant; that the school districts would be asking teachers to lay their lives on the line. Susan continued to press the issue about whether the extent of gun training is sufficient for training guardians but also those with concealed weapons permits. Senator Bean and Susan went back and forth on this issue and she indicated to him that she would follow through on the discussion through contact with him. Sen. Bean seemed impressed that we had done our homework and stated our positions clearly and passionately. He said that he would consider what we said and re-read the bill carefully.
We still had time for Larry to express his concern that not enough was being done to protect the environment in Florida, although he was pleased to see that Gov. DeSantis has seemed to support anti-fracking legislation. He also raised the problem of climate change especially the rise of sea levels, which threaten our coastal areas and low-lying cities. We also raised the algae problems that occurred this past summer and continues to be a threat to Florida’s tourist industry. Sen. Bean talked knowledgeably and enthusiastically about measures to secure the beaches of Florida against red tide. And he had interesting things to say about legislation that is being prepared to legislate the use of septic tanks because the source of pollution in the water systems (he mentioned Okeechobee) seems to indicate the presence of contaminants “not found in nature” (Viagra, for example) which could only be the result of effluent leaking from septic tanks into the aquifer.
Susan followed by raising the issue of SB 330 on the proposed replacement of “common core” curriculum in schools to one that supports “controversial theories and concepts” which we interpreted as promoting non-scientific approaches to evolution, climate change, etc. (e.g. creationism). Senator Bean just listened to us as we discussed the virtues of believing in science.
We debriefed after the meeting. Our general consensus was that we made some progress towards weakening Sen. Bean’s hold on the stereotype that Indivisibles were aggressive loudmouths. We were courteous and well-prepared. Sen. Bean seemed to enjoy the conversation and offered to meet us in Mandarin the next time we asked for a meeting with him, so we wouldn’t have to drive so far. We recognized that he is deeply conservative and that we had only a few points of connection where we could agree with him. But he opened the door for us to come back and speak with him or his staff. Richard discussed the prospect of his appearance before the entire IM community at one of our monthly meetings. Sen. Bean seemed amenable to this but asked if people would “yell at him” during the meeting and we assured him that we generally don’t yell at anyone and try to have reasonable discussions in order to find our commonalities with those who have different political views from us. He posed for a photo with us and gave us coffee cups before we left. We left Fernandina Beach satisfied with our first encounter with Sen. Bean. Our group did a commendable job of presenting our views to him and doing so in such a way that he would be willing to listen to us further. At this point, we couldn’t expect more from our first encounter with him.