Hinson reviews session, explains vote on homeless bill   

State Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson (right) speaks at Mainstreet's Newsmaker Interview Series with reporter Seth Johnson.
State Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson (right) speaks at Mainstreet's Newsmaker Interview Series with reporter Seth Johnson.
Photo by J.C. Derrick

State Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson, D-Gainesville, said Thursday she felt more collaboration during this year’s legislative session and explained her homelessness vote that differed from her Democratic Party peers.   

She also touched on the careful timing of the Gainesville City Commission’s ballot referendum talks and discussed her Academic Freedom bill, while saying she was stunned by the way UF recently eliminated its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) positions. 

“They did it in a cutthroat way as if to send a message,” Hinson said.  

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Hinson spoke with Mainstreet on Thursday during a public interview at the Ronald McDonald House of North Central Florida. The interview, attended by Mainstreet members, is the second in a Newsmaker Interview Series focused on the recent legislative session.   

Two weeks ago, state Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-Newberry, appeared for an interview, and a conversation with state Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, is scheduled for next week.  

Hinson said Republican members of the Florida House and Senate seemed more willing to collaborate than in past years. She attributed the change to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign that was losing steam as the session got underway.   

Hinson agreed with Clemons that this session seemed calmer—though not calm—compared with the 2023 session when Republicans worked to pass several major items on its agenda.   

“It was a little more mellow, but the incoming freshmen wouldn’t know that because it was still intense,” Hinson said. “The freshmen thought it was the most intense session ever.”  

During the 2024 session, Hinson’s Academic Freedom bill failed to make it to the House floor for consideration, but she said she plans to modify and refile the bill in 2025. She said the modifications would strip the bill of everything except for the provisions about DEI.   

That provision authorizes each university’s Board of Trustees to create programs concerning DEI. Last year, DeSantis signed a bill that prohibits universities from using state funds for DEI initiatives.   

On March 1, the University of Florida announced it would eliminate the entire DEI office with its $5 million budget. Hinson said she expected changes—and had warned UF staff to begin reorganizing the DEI positions—but she said the way UF handled the issue surprised her.  

“I don’t think there’s another school that did it this way,” Hinson said. “Schools prepared for it and planned for it. UF made a message of it, used it as their calling card.”  

State Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson speaks at Thursday's event.
Photo by J.C. Derrick State Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson speaks at Thursday’s event.

On Tuesday night, a vandal broke a window to the Gainesville mayor’s office, leaving behind a note that strongly opposed the city’s DEI initiatives. Hinson said she thinks politically polarized language, including that of the governor, will continue to produce a hostile environment.   

During the interview, Hinson also discussed HB 1365, a homelessness law that prevents people from sleeping on public property and authorizes cities and counties to designate an area of public property for homeless people to stay.   

Hinson opposed HB 1365 through its committee and filed an amendment to change the law, but when the time came for a final vote, Hinson gave her support while other Democrats sided in opposition. Hinson said her vote was rooted in the experiences Gainesville has had concerning homelessness.   

She sat on the Gainesville City Commission when it bought GRACE Marketplace. At the time, around 100 people spent the nights at Bo Diddley Plaza and then began to be moved outside GRACE Marketplace, creating Dignity Village.   

Hinson said the project worked well, assigning workers and volunteers to certain sections of the camp. But she said problems with violence and management arose at night and led to the end of the encampment.   

She hopes the new encampments will be different with state agencies getting involved, even if cities and counties won’t receive new money to handle the encampments. 

“I’m hoping with the Department of Children and Families that we can pursue a different technique,” Hinson said. “They are going to force good sanitation out there and lighting, and I think they’re going to enforce security.”  

Hinson said she’s not sure how the department will handle it, but she said Gainesville and Alachua County allocate $3 million to homelessness each year and people remain on the streets. She said a new approach with state involvement might help.  

Hinson is running for reelection this year, in an effort to win a third straight two-year term. She said the short terms create a difficult environment to fully invest in the legislative work. It’s an issue she said needs to be addressed, even though no one is working on it.   

Currently, no one has filed to run against Hinson.   

Clemons and Perry also sit on the Alachua County delegation and have run out of terms.   

Hinson said Stan McClain, a Republican, seems to be the heir apparent for Perry. She said McClain might bring more MAGA-type legislation to the Senate than Perry would have proposed.  

Mainstreet member Kim Popejoy asks Hinson a question during Thursday's event.
Photo by J.C. Derrick Mainstreet member Kim Popejoy asks Hinson a question during Thursday’s event.

Hinson also endorsed Democratic candidate David Arreola, a former Gainesville City Commissioner, to replace Clemons. Three Republicans and one other Democrat are running for the seat as well.   

Last week, the City Commission voted to begin a ballot measure that would, if approved by voters, undo the Legislature’s bill that added Section 7 to Gainesville’s charter. The end goal is for the City Commission to again manage Gainesville Regional Utilities instead of the current authority.   

Hinson said last year’s local bill was pushed through on the strength of Clemons and Perry. Without their advocacy, she said, a future Alachua County delegation might lack the political will to bring the issue back if Gainesville is successful with a ballot referendum.   

“I believe there was some kind of strategy involved to wait until these people termed out,” Hinson said. “It must have been.” 

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Hinson is partisan no matter what. Gainesville’s one party rule failed to ease homelessness but made it much worse for all to see. The state saw this and wanted to avoid it spreading everywhere. She failed to have common sense.

Elizabeth Jenkins

Rep. Hinson appears to be more sensible than “some” politicians!

Jim Harper

Keep going, Seth and MSDN. We need you!


I cannot begin to see any good in Arreola being our rep. He needs to grow up first! He still thinks like a freshman in college.