FAC News Clips – March 29, 2017
Tampa Bay Times
BROOKSVILLE — A familiar proposal to fund a portion of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office through a special taxing district came to a familiar end Tuesday when the County Commission turned down the idea with an informal vote before a packed house of residents who opposed the idea. It took less than five minutes. A few minutes later, the commission also approved by formal vote a $1.26 million settlement of the budget dispute between the county and the sheriff that has raged for six months, driving a wedge between county commissioners and Sheriff Al Nienhuis.
Miami Beach’s new minimum wage law, which aims to raise the mandatory citywide wage to $13.31 by 2021, was struck down in Miami-Dade circuit court Tuesday, setting the stage for an escalation in the legal showdown between Tallahassee and City Hall. The Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and Florida Chamber of Commerce filed suit against the city in December over the city law, arguing that it is preempted by state law. Later, state Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a motion to intervene to defend the constitutionality of the state preemption law.
Seminole County commissioners today agreed to remove the Clerk of Courts’ role in handling the day-to-day decisions of investing hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus county funds. Instead, the commission will hire a financial adviser to make recommendations and provide advice on investing the county money. On that advice, commissioners will then direct the county’s Clerk of Courts office to make those investment decisions, according to a resolution approved at today’s meeting.
ABC Action News
Population in Hillsborough county is growing - according to fire rescue officials, nearly 120,000 people have moved to the area over the last 10 years. In that same time frame - the department hasn't built a new fire station. Officials say with the influx of people comes more calls for service. The county has seen a 32.9% increase in call volume. County Commissioners are expected to review and talk about the 2017-2040 Fire Rescue Master Plan, during a budget workshop meeting Wednesday.
Citrus County Chronicle
INVERNESS — Citrus County commissioners felt no need Tuesday to rewrite the playbook on economic development. But they agreed the county needs someone to run the plays. Commissioners voted 3-2 to develop an ordinance that both sets up an economic development council and creates a full-time director’s position in the hopes of solving a decades-long problem of boosting the county’s economy.
OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WEAR) — Okaloosa County commissioners may soon do away with a program which spends more than $18 million every year. But commissioners still have a lot of questions before they cast their vote. County commissioners will meet Wednesday to discuss, but not vote on, scrapping the county-run tourism department in favor of a public-private partnership with local chambers of commerce and business owners. The partnership would take some or all of the money the county collects from a 5-cent tax on hotels and give it to the public-private partnership to advertise its beach to tourists.
WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - In this day and age, living without the internet isn't an option. Tuesday, Walton County commissioners approved to move forward to seek a group for a feasibility study on broadband access in the county. District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander expressed the desperate need throughout Walton County to bring full access to the everyone in the area. "We have people who could access better health care if they had the internet. We have children that could study from home in they had access to the internet," Comander said.
MARTIN COUNTY — Voters could be asked again to implement a county sales tax in addition to the existing 6 percent state sales tax. They said no to the proposal more than two years ago. Revenue from a sales tax increase could be used for various projects, such as septic-to-sewer conversions. The County Commission on Tuesday asked staff for information on holding a sales tax referendum. It could be ready for the April 25 commission meeting, said County Attorney Sarah Woods.
As the Trump administration issues fresh threats to withhold or revoke law enforcement grant money from communities that refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to find and deport immigrants in the country illegally, Clay County is taking steps to get off the list of sanctuary cities and counties. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announced Monday that Justice Department would deny money to cities that violate a federal law dealing with information-sharing among local police and federal authorities.
North Port Sun
Charlotte County commissioners traveled to Washington, D.C., this month to advocate for the reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program, funding for the Manasota Key beach renourishment project and other priorities in the county’s federal legislative agenda. Commission Chairman Bill Truex, Vice Chairman Ken Doherty and Commissioners Chris Constance and Joe Tiseo participated in the trip, along with Deputy County Administrator Kelly Shoemaker and I.
A House committee voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of a bill to begin the Forensic Hospital Diversion Pilot Program in the Panhandle’s Okaloosa County. Rep. Mel Ponder, who sponsored HB 1051, introduced the measure to the House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee. The bill intends to alleviate overcrowding in the state’s prison corrections system with a significant percentage of individuals with mental health needs. Often, those individuals go ignored while incarcerated.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV -- Stakeholders from various parts of the community met Tuesday morning for the second Leon County Legislative Dialogue session, including reps from the business, education, healthcare and local government communities. Each, discussing key issues and pieces of legislation they’re following through the legislative session. Some of those issues include changes to state employee health care and retirement, a potential cut in funding for memory and dementia centers and a proposal to drop the business rent tax.
Naples Daily News
TALLAHASSEE - Florida Senate leaders said Tuesday they will not consider a plan by House Speaker Richard Corcoran to strip taxpayer money from 22 economic incentive programs and a state tourism agency. Their decision signals support for Gov. Rick Scott's fight to keep the incentives. "Well, I can say there's still time left, but it's not going to be heard in my committee, at least not right now. ...," said Sen. Jeff Brandes, chairman of the Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee.
House budget writers stuck to the plan Tuesday in rolling out details of their proposed $12.3 billion for transportation and tourism. It would eliminate economic incentives programs including Enterprise Florida, and sharply reduce spending on Visit Florida. “We’re basically following the tenets of (HB) 7005, the policy bill that was passed a couple of weeks ago,” said Clay Ingram, chairman of the Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee.
The Florida House and Senate are planning big cuts to Florida hospitals and those groups say it will hurt medical care access for the poor and disabled. Edgewater resident Adrienne Gorham works as sign language interpreter. She said she makes too much for Medicaid. That’s one reason she’s deep in debt on medical bills she can’t pay after a car accident two years ago. Many Florida hospitals serve people who are uninsured or on Medicaid. They get reimbursed in a variety of ways, including a base rate reimbursement, Medicaid enhancement payments and help absorbing uncompensated care.
Fort Myers News Press
Affluent St. Johns and Collier counties remain Florida’s healthiest communities, while the rural regions continue to suffer some of the highest rates of mental illness, substance abuse, and premature death, a new report finds. Lee County ranks fairly high — now in 12th place in Florida — and is up from 20th place just two years ago, according to the 2017 County Health Rankings from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
Which counties were the healthiest and which were the most unhealthy throughout the Sunshine State? St. Johns County ranked first in both key indexes used by the seventh annual county health rankings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which partners with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to work with communities around the country to take a snapshot and learn how our environments affect us.
Sarasota Herald Tribune
Once again Sarasota County is riding high among Florida counties in a national tally of health benefits and deficits that underscores the fact that where you live can determine whether you thrive. For the third year in a row, the county ranks third in the state for "health outcomes" -- length and quality of life. And it comes in second overall in "health factors" -- a complicated mix that includes factors we can and can't control: lifestyle habits, medical care, regional socioeconomics and the environment.
Tampa Bay Reporter
TAMPA BAY – State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, took a moment during a Facebook interview this morning (March 28) to defend home rule. “Well, I think home rule. There’s this attitude from a lot of folks in the [State] House [of Representatives] that we ought to make all the laws for Florida right here in Tallahassee. That we ought to preempt and do away with the ability of local cities and counties to do local ordinances, to regulate things, businesses and people’s lives. And I think that’s the wrong approach,” Latvala said.
Naples Daily News
At a recent Naples City Council meeting, there were back-to-back short discussions that illustrate what a Southwest Florida state lawmaker wanted to accomplish with a bill restricting local governments and why the proposal should be “dead in the water” -- as it now thankfully appears to be in the Florida Senate. Councilman Sam Saad recalled his boat trip after a Naples parade, describing the many broken balloons -- the type that can endanger wildlife -- floating in the waters.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
One of six plans to regulate medical marijuana moved forward in the state House on Tuesday after the first hearing for any of the plans. The bill includes some of the strictest controls on Florida’s nascent medical marijuana industry of any plan offered by the Legislature. It would initially limit growers to only the seven currently in existence, and bans smoking, vaping and edibles. The bill, supported 14-1 in the Health Quality subcommittee, has two more committee stops before going to the House floor for a vote.
WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - In the last election, Floridians passed a new law bringing medical marijuana to the state. Now, the question is where it is appropriate to place these facilities? At February's Walton County commission meeting, the board approved a 90-day temporary moratorium on the growing, cultivating and dispensing of medical marijuana in the county. The temporary moratorium gives commissioners time to discuss land use regulations for these facilities.
News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — Pledging that it is only a start, a Florida House panel gave a thumbs-up Tuesday to a medical-marijuana proposal castigated by supporters of a constitutional amendment that legalized cannabis for a broad swath of patients with debilitating conditions. The House Health Quality Subcommittee overwhelmingly approved the measure (HB 1397), sponsored by House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, with just one "no" vote after nearly three hours of public testimony.
One of six plans to regulate medical marijuana moved forward in the state House on Tuesday after the first hearing for any of the plans. The bill includes some of the strictest controls on Florida’s nascent medical marijuana industry of any plan offered by the Legislature. It would initially limit growers to only the seven currently in existence, and bans smoking, vaping and edibles. The bill, supported 14-1 in the Health Quality subcommittee, has two more committee stops before going to the House floor for a vote. None of the five Senate bills regulating the medical marijuana industry has had a hearing.
Tampa Bay Times
TALLAHASSEE — A powerful Florida House Republican said Tuesday he'll consider revising his plan for medical pot after drawing criticism from marijuana supporters. House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, who's shepherding the lower chamber's bill (HB 1397) to expand the distribution of voter-approved medical marijuana, said he's willing to compromise to ensure the Legislature puts something into law. "It's in all of our interests, whether you're in the House or Senate, to make sure you get an implementing bill done this session," Rodrigues said.
TALLAHASSEE — The House proposal to implement Florida’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment cleared its first committee Tuesday by a 14-1 vote, drawing praise from some early critics of the amendment. "It is my concerned opinion that this bill should be advanced,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of Drug Free America Foundation, a group funded by wealthy developer Mel Sembler, who has donated millions opposing medical marijuana constitutional amendments. She listed her worries about what implementation has looked like in other states and added "I want to see my state protected."
The man had just risen from the dead. He’s in his mid-20s. Sitting on a couch, pale as a ghost, sweaty, wide-eyed, disoriented. “What happened?” asked Delray Beach police Sgt. Ed McCabe. “I guess … I overdosed,” said the man. The man’s roommates found him unconscious and turning blue. He was overdosing on heroin. They pulled out two auto-injectors of naloxone — an overdose-reversal drug —and jabbed them into his thigh. He came to. “How much did you use?” asked McCabe.
Palm Beach Post
As Palm Beach County’s chief circuit judge, Jeffrey Colbath has had a courtroom view of the opioid epidemic’s toll on society over the past few years. He also is aware that local leaders have pleaded to Gov. Rick Scott for help to curb the crisis, only to be ignored. That’s why Colbath decided to write his own letter to Scott, asking the governor to declare a public-health emergency to fight the epidemic. “I don’t imagine he’s getting a lot of letters from chief judges. Hopefully it will at least cause him to pause a little longer and rethink it,” Colbath said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post.
Tampa Bay Reporter
PASCO COUNTY – The Pasco County Commission unanimously approved a three-year contract with Dan Biles to be Pasco County’s next county administrator. Biles, a professional engineer, most recently served as deputy county manager of infrastructure for Jefferson County, AL. Before that, Biles held several leadership positions in his four years with the city of Corpus Christi, TX. Biles is slated to start his new position May 1 at a starting salary of $220,000 per year.
Short Term Rentals
A proposal to halt local regulation of vacation rentals passed in committee Tuesday after a heated debate over private property and community rights. In 2011, the Florida Legislature barred cities from regulating short-term vacation rentals and preempted local control. Three years later, the Legislature returned some authority to city governments, allowing them to enact new ordinances such as building requirements. But Rep. Mike La Rosa, the bill's sponsor, says many ordinances passed to address vacation rentals are infringing on property rights.
Sunshine State News
While the war against home-sharing companies like Airbnb rages on in South Florida, a bill prohibiting Florida cities and counties from passing measures to restrict homesharing companies and vacation rentals sailed through a Florida House subcommittee on Tuesday. With a 9-6 vote, the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee voted in favor of HB 425, sponsored by Rep. Mike LaRosa, R-St. Cloud. LaRosa’s proposal would ban cities, towns and local governments from encroaching on vacation rental companies like Airbnb and Home Away, effectively requiring municipalities to treat vacation rental homes just like any other home in any given neighborhood.
Tampa Bay Times
Despite intense opposition from Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami and several beach communities, a second House subcommittee passed a bill Tuesday that blocks cities and counties from adopting new restrictions on the use of private homes for vacation rentals. But ordinances that were in effect as of June 1, 2011, are grandfathered and can stay in effect. The 9-6 vote in the Careers & Competition Subcommittee sends the bill to the full Commerce Committee, a 30-member panel that is top-heavy with members from South Florida, one of the nation's hottest tourist destinations and where passions on both sides of the short-term rental controversy run very high.
A bill to repeal all local ordinances and regulations on vacation rental homes, rolling them back to 2011 levels, advanced Tuesday in the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee. The proposal, by St. Cloud Republican Mike LaRosa (HB 425), would require local governments in Florida to treat vacation rental homes like any other home in any given neighborhood. In discussing the legislation, LaRosa fumed against what he called “an obscene” amount of local ordinances around the state against vacation homes.
Palm Beach Post
Two House members are seeking to make far-reaching changes to the process by which the state and local governments pay out claims for deaths, injuries, and wrongful imprisonment. Under current law, a legal doctrine known as “sovereign immunity” requires the Legislature to approve payment of any claim against the state or local governments in excess of $300,000 before it can be paid. Though the awards have been vetted in court and are often not in dispute, claimants with higher settlements must get individual claim bills through both legislative chambers and then signed by the governor, a process that usually takes years if it is successful at all.
TALLAHASSEE — A Brevard County lawmaker watered down his bill to crack down on septic tanks that pollute waterways such as the Indian River Lagoon to allay concerns about affecting home sales and burdening home sellers. House Bill 285 would have mandated septic tank inspections as part of real estate transactions, but Republican Rep. Randy Fine changed it to a more "buyer beware" bill that requires: Sellers to tell buyers if the property has a septic system, but they wouldn't have to disclose any issues with it.
TALLAHASSEE — The state House wants to cut land conservation funding and, as expected, not fund a reservoir to curb Lake Okeechobee discharges, according to its proposed environmental budget released Tuesday. The budget also would reduce Everglades and springs restoration funding compared with what the Legislature allocated last year. It also cuts money for the Florida Forever program, which buys land for habitat preservation and parks. There's no money for muck removal in the Indian River Lagoon, either.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Broward County’s efforts to fight the Zika virus got a boost Tuesday when commissioners accepted an $801,900 grant to pay for additional mosquito control efforts. The grant from the Florida Department of Health gives the county more ammunition to battle the virus, which is known to cause brain-related birth defects. The money will be used for aerial and ground spraying and cover the cost of chemicals, equipment and supplies. There have been two reports of locally acquired Zika infections this year in Florida, although health officials think both patients probably contracted the virus in Miami-Dade County last year.