This past week Collier County sent representatives to the Florida Association of Counties 2012 Legislative Day in Tallahassee to call upon our Legislators to present the county approved State Legislative Priorities. As the elected (by the BCC) commissioner to the Florida Association of Counties, I was honored to represent Collier County. Among the priorities we advocated were the overall principles of preserving the Home Rule authority of local governments, opposing state Preemption, Opposing Unfunded Mandates, and protecting against Trust Fund Diversions. We asked the Legislators to oppose legislative or Constitutional restriction on County authority to determine local tax burden or local financial commitments to services and quality of life (TABOR). Specifically – oppose state legislation mandating local governments cap revenue and expenditures.
We also asked them to support initiatives at the state level which require all state agencies to use the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system for employment verification, advocating also for the criminal alien identification program to aid in reducing the number of illegal immigrants living and working in the State of Florida. Under the heading of Economic Development we advocated to maximizing opportunities and providing incentives for new businesses to move to Collier County and for local businesses to expand; and to emphasize job creation and growth.
We asked them to support state aid to libraries and cooperatives like the Southwest Florida Library Network, to repeal provisions in Senate Bill 550 of 2010 mandating septic tank inspections or repeal the Bill in its entirety, and to waive requirements or adapt provisions in the Florida Building Code to address permitting of recreational cabins in preserve areas. This is in answer to those people who have hunting or fishing camps in preserve areas that have been hit by hurricanes or fire, and have not been allowed to rebuild their cabins.
Each commissioner was assigned to a number of Legislators, (I called upon State Rep. Kathleen Passidomo and State Senator Garrett Richter, among others) so as not to violate the Florida Sunshine Law. The Sunshine Law affects County Commissioners but not the State’s elected officials. Another subject we each promoted was to support permanently prohibiting offshore oil and gas drilling within Florida territorial waters and demand that the federal government exert rigorous oversight of any current and future drilling, and insist no monetary limitations for any drilling mishap are set.
A subject very near and dear to my heart was the Transportation Disadvantaged Program, which I have chaired for the past 11 years. The Florida Legislature cut Medicaid funding for the Transportation Disadvantaged (including developmentally disabled, wheelchair-bound, blind, etc.) in the 2011 Legislative Session. We asked our Legislators to restore funding to previous levels: the Collier program has been cut about 4.8%, representing an average of $1,700 a month from July 2011 to June 2012. Meanwhile, the number of trip requests has been increasing.
Finally, we advocated supporting the Everglades Boulevard/I-75 Interchange, which is critical to public safety for evacuations and emergencies, including wildfires and hurricanes. This is also Collier County’s top federal project.
Other subjects the Florida Association of Counties is addressing are Tax breaks given to out of state online travel companies, that come at the expense of local hoteliers and critical tourism development investments. FAC is opposing any legislation that would provide an advantage for online travel companies while putting Florida’s local hoteliers at a disadvantage.
I know it sounds boring, but these subjects are very important to our county and to our taxpayers. With that, I’ll say –
Happy Valentine’s Day! Don’t forget to treat your Sweetheart with special love and tenderness!