FAC News Clips – February 25, 2017
St. Augustine Record
Fiscal year 2018 may be months away, but St. Johns County is already gearing up for another challenging budget process. Tuesday’s commission meeting included an overview of the county’s budget, focusing on the General Fund as well as initial budget guidelines for next year. Projections through fiscal year 2022 were also provided. Jesse Dunn, director of management and budget for the county, said the budget is a fluid document that reflects the policies adopted by the board.
LIVE OAK — The Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners discussed an aid agreement between the county and the City of Live Oak for fire and Emergency Management Services (EMS) on Tuesday at a county board meeting. County attorney Jimmy Prevatt said the two services should be separated due to the lack of the city having a medical director. The county has protocols set up that do not allow only a first responder service, he said. “If (the city) were to come and automatically do anything for us under EMS, it would violate our protocol,” Prevatt said.
Mark Kelly and his wife used to rarely recycle. They would instead put out two garbage cans full of trash every week. But over the past few months, the East Manatee residents have started to regularly recycle, thanks to Manatee County’s new single-stream recycling program. They’re putting out less trash every week. “It just made it easier,” Kelly said. “I just think the container itself made it easier. To be able to put everything in it that’s recyclable and wheel it out just made it easier.”
Jackson County Floridan
Jackson County employees will now be able to get urgent care services, their physicals and their wellness checks through the county health department, thanks to a deal struck by Jackson County Commissioners and that entity. The health department had proposed the agreement earlier this year. Under the memorandum of understanding approved this month by commissioners , employees could go there for non-emergencies like earache, sore throat, vomiting, and other common ailments with assurances that the health department would “make all reasonable efforts” to ensure a same-day appointment for calls made on the morning of the day services are being requested.
Communications Services Tax
News Service of Florida
Senate seeks to cut communications tax, end insurer tax credit
Taxes that Floridians pay on cell-phone and pay-TV services would be trimmed in exchange for the elimination of a decades-old insurance industry tax credit, under a bill filed Friday in the Senate. The proposal (SB 378), filed by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, would reduce communications-services tax rates by 2 percentage points. It would bring the tax to 2.92 percent for services such as cable television and 7.07 percent for satellite television. The proposal would offset the lost tax revenue by repealing an insurance-premium tax credit of up to 15 percent on the salaries that insurers pay to Florida-based employees.
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran made it clear Friday he is sticking to his drive to abolish Enterprise Florida Inc. and VISIT Florida saying the moves are right in philosophy and facts. “I’m telling you we’re right. We’re absolutely right,” Corcoran declared in a speech before the Central Florida Urban League. Corcoran described Enterprise Florida as an organization that serves the top 1 percent of companies and most of them did not deliver and belittled VISIT Florida for paying for Pitbull‘s video that he said essentially declared, “Come to Florida and have sex.”
Palm Beach Post
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) applauds state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and state Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Clearwater, for pushing forward with both Senate Bill 340 and House Bill 221 this session to protect Floridians.
The number of Floridians using transportation network companies (TNC), such as Uber or Lyft, has certainly exploded in recent years. Yet despite that growth, questions surrounding consumer protections and regulations, specifically regarding insurance coverage, remain. So before you request a driver, it is important to be aware of the insurance implications.
No state incentives mean fewer films, TV shows made in Florida
As part of a promotional effort for the Oscar-nominated, space-themed film "Hidden Figures," its stars and others connected with the movie visited Kennedy Space Center in December. But the irony is that no scenes from the film were shot at KSC — or anywhere else on the Space Coast, for that matter — except for historic stock footage. Space Coast Film Commissioner Bonnie King said people connected with the film had contacted her to talk about locations for filming on the Space Coast. But, largely because Florida no longer offers incentives for film and television productions, "the higher-ups decided not to film here."
Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA — Medical marijuana businesses already approved by the state would get a significant leg up on future competition under regulations being considered in Hillsborough County. Draft language of the new rules — which could be approved as early as next month — show Hillsborough plans to create a 30-day window for marijuana companies to apply for a limited number of licenses. The application period would likely close well before Florida Department of Health and state lawmakers decide whether to expand the list of approved growers beyond the seven current license holders.
Jackson County Floridan
Jackson County Commissioners voted to move forward to the next and what would be, if approved, the final stage of setting a 180-day temporary moratorium meant to prevent the immediate establishment of any medical marijuana operation in the county. The proposed ordinance, “declaring zoning in process and imposing a moratorium on the acceptance and processing of new applications for a period of 180 days,” gained an affirmative motion to adopt, but is subject to a second public hearing before final adoption can take place.
Palm Beach Post
“Whose child has to die before somebody does something?” That was the question my former aide, Johnnie Easton, asked me shortly after I was elected. It was one of what would become many sleepless nights she had to call me to tell me she would be late because she was out searching the streets for her daughter, Tasha. In mid-November of 2016, she got the answer to that question. Hers.
Miami Herald / Tampa Bay Times
When it comes to telling local governments what they can and cannot do, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron are taking markedly different positions. The issue will play out in the upcoming legislative session in the form of broad House legislation (HB 17) that would ban all local government regulation of business without state permission, which could throw out ordinances ranging from mandatory bar closing hours to protection of LGBTQ Floridians. A narrower Senate bill (SB1158) filed Thursday would prevent regulation of "commerce, trade and labor."
The night before a bill to eliminate Enterprise Florida was filed in the Florida Legislature, House Speaker Richard Corcoran summoned his GOP caucus to a private meeting at The Edison. The choice of venue was ironic. The upscale Tallahassee restaurant in Cascades Park was made possible by the very kind of government spending he thinks represents "corporate welfare" and seeks to end. Behind closed doors, he urged the lawmakers to join his fight for more transparency in spending and end the practice of creating specific pots of money for select businesses.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran says America’s founding fathers would be squarely behind a so-called “preemption” proposal to strip local governments of their power to regulate businesses. Tallahassee Mayor and outspoken opponent Andrew Gillum says government closest to the people governs best. But Corcoran, an attorney, cites the U.S. Constitution. “I think our founders got it right when they set up a Constitution that basically said that the federal government exists with these enumerated powers. What’s not enumerated, all of it, belongs to the states.”
Naples Daily News
At the Collier County legislative delegation meeting in November, the area’s lawmakers were urged to leave more decisions to local government rather than dictate from the state level. “The words ‘local control’ resonate in the halls” of the Legislature, state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, assured the audience. Sponsors of House Bill 17 aren’t sharing the same hallways. State Reps. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, and Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, introduced the measure that would take away local decisions regulating business unless authorized by the state, placing more control with the Legislature.
Florida Times Union
Tia Mitchell: What we can learn from a controversial proposal’s bill number
Here’s a secret in the legislative process: Bills that have single or low two-digit numbers are presumed to be special. These prime bill slots are generally reserved for priorities of the House speaker and Senate president. It’s why President Joe Negron’s overhaul of the higher education system is Senate Bill 2 and a proposal to change the way new hospitals and nursing homes are approved — part of Speaker Richard Corcoran’s slate of health care reforms — is House Bill 7. Which brings us to House Bill 17. In a nutshell, this legislation would prevent city and county governments and school districts from making new rules that put restrictions on private businesses and any occupations.
Miami Herald / Tampa Bay Times
A company that sued Martin County for allegedly reneging on a contract to use land to clean polluted water from Lake Okeechobee has won a major public records lawsuit accusing county commissioners of denying they conducted public business on private email accounts, delaying producing the accounts once they were discovered and, in one case, destroying the record trail. The county has agreed to pay Lake Point LLC, a company that operates a rock mine in western Martin County, more than $371,800 in attorneys’ fees and establish a new policy for how to handle public business on private email accounts.
Local officials governed by Florida’s Sunshine Law cannot speak to one another outside public meetings, leaving them predominantly influenced by staff and special interests. The media says this prevents “back-room deals” between board members, but they ignore the fact that staff and special-interests groups are allowed to sway and pick-off elected officials behind closed doors, without the public’s knowledge of these private conversations. In the Florida Legislature, we are also lobbied by staff and special interests, but are able to share ideas, plan and thoroughly vet proposals with our colleagues, because we can talk to each other one-on-one.
It appears doubtful the House will take up, as written, a $2.4 billion proposal by Senate President Joe Negron to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee to ease the impacts of polluted water releases into estuaries on the east and west coasts. House Government Accountability Chairman Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, said advancing Negron’s proposed 60,000-acre reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area — atop what is now farmland — would be “non-starter” if it displaces other projects, such as the $600 million C-43 reservoir along the Caloosahatchee River west of the lake.
Around the country…
WASHINGTON — In 1960, when John Kennedy was elected president, America’s population was 180 million and it had approximately 1.8 million federal bureaucrats (not counting uniformed military personnel and postal workers). Fifty-seven years later, with seven new Cabinet agencies, and myriad new sub-Cabinet agencies (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency), and a slew of matters on the federal policy agenda that were virtually absent in 1960 (health care insurance, primary and secondary school quality, crime, drug abuse, campaign finance, gun control, occupational safety, etc.), and with a population of 324 million, there are only about 2 million federal bureaucrats.
When Nydia Tisdale turned her camera on a north Georgia city council meeting, the mayor ordered her to stop recording and had a police officer forcibly remove her and the camera. Two years later, as she filmed a Republican midterm election campaign rally, a sheriff's captain led her away shouting, her arm pinned behind her back, as candidates and spectators looked on. Armed with a video camera and a thorough knowledge of her legal rights, the 53-year-old self-described citizen journalist has made it her mission to promote transparency in local government.