'LIP' money falls short of initial estimates
Florida Politics
At the height of a budget showdown earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott boasted that his friendship with President Donald Trump's administration would result in Florida getting $1.5 billion to help the state's hospitals. But months later, the final amount will be considerably smaller, a top state Medicaid official said Wednesday. Instead the state will have about $790.4 million in supplemental Medicaid funds to spend this year. Beth Kidder, a deputy secretary at the state Agency for Health Care Administration, told the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee that the agency has $303 million in funding commitments from counties to help fund the Low-Income Pool. Kidder told the panel that the size of the Low-Income Pool has always been contingent on the receipt of matching local dollars to fund it.
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LETTERS: A number of our legislators seem intent on taking away local control
Daytona Beach News-Journal
The discussions regarding home rule and short-term rentals owned and operated by investors was a hot topic this last legislative session, and will be even more contentious during the upcoming 2018 session. As you've probably read, a number of our legislators seem intent on taking away local control, including Flagler's own Rep. Paul Renner. Last year, Renner co-sponsored HB 425, which was designed to take away home rule. Luckily, it did not become law, due to some astute politicians and the actions of many residents/voters/constituents. In 2017, La Rosa sponsored HB 425 and Steube sponsored SB 188 - bills designed to take away home rule. La Rosa also is the co-founder of La Rosa Realty - a Florida company that touts, as one of its specialties, "short-term rental investments." So, as we gear up for the 2018 legislative session, find out what your representatives are doing to advance your priorities. Make sure your legislators pass the "smell test." A lot of them, unfortunately, do not seem to do so.
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PINELLAS MAYORS: CITIES FEEL 'UNDER ATTACK' BY LEGISLATURE
Tampa Bay Reporter
The Pinellas County Mayors' Council has sent Legislators a letter outlining their concerns about state attempts to prevent cities and towns from passing rules that govern their own residents. Thus far, 14 of the county's 24 mayors have signed onto the letter: "Together we are local government! Last session, key leaders in Tallahassee introduced a variety of legislation that aimed to handicap LOCAL [sic] government's ability to serve its community. The Mayors' Council of Pinellas County believes this anti-local government trend will likely continue into the 2018 session due to members of the Legislature believing that the Florida Legislature has the constitutional right to preempt local governments. Therefore, it is more important than ever before that mayors unite to remind our state representatives and state senators that over 40 years ago, Floridians voted to empower themselves with the right of local self-government - known as Home Rule. Cities continue to feel as if they are under attack by some state legislators seeking to stifle their ability to self-govern, eliminate citizens ability to engage policymakers at a LOCAL [sic] public forum and force financially healthy cities to significantly spend down reserves, crippling the ability to self-sustain themselves during economic downturns and emergency situations, as well as negatively impacting their credit rating resulting in being subject to pay high interest rates."
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City, county to discuss dismantling downtown CRA redevelopment district
Tallahassee Democrat
Tallahassee and Leon County commissioners are holding back-to-back meetings this week to determine the fate of the downtown redevelopment district. While some officials have said the downtown district has been a certified success, others say it's time has come. The City Commission, County Commission and Community Redevelopment Agency have for the last several months debated the sunset of the downtown redevelopment district, seeking input and data from staff on how the various options stack up. The seven-member County Commission adopted a plan June 20 to phase out the 13-year-old district by 2020 to make up for the anticipated loss of revenues that a second $25,000 homestead exemption would cause if adopted by voters. The constitutional amendment goes to a statewide vote in 2018. If approved by voters, the amendment to the Florida Constitution would be implemented in 2020. Its local impact on the county would be $7.2 million in lost revenue. Pulling out of the downtown district would save the county $1.4 million a year.
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Killing CRAs would endanger the renaissance of Fort Pierce (Fort Pierce Mayor Linda Hudson)
TCPalm
If you follow the Florida Legislature, prepare to hear a lot of criticism about Community Redevelopment Agencies. In the Florida House, at least, the pressure against more than 220 CRAs across the state comes from the very top. Because of questionable practices in a few CRAs, critics have called for stricter auditing and oversight, ethics training for authority leaders and other improvements that many city leaders would welcome, including me. But any attempt by the Legislature to impede the creation of new CRAs, or to phase out existing CRAs, would be a terrible mistake - one that would halt the progress historic cities like Fort Pierce have been making toward revitalizing our neighborhoods and economies. All CRAs are not alike, and they don't always make universally popular choices. I, personally, have not agreed with everything our CRA has spent money on. Still, the program was designed to give aging cities an opportunity to flourish again. Investments made years, even decades, ago now are paying dividends. It would be a terrible shame to halt the renaissance of Fort Pierce.
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Vacation rental owners, hotels battle over beds
Orlando Sentinel
In a mounting turf battle over Florida's tourists, some vacation-rental owners say they want the right to rent out their houses or rooms as they see fit, while the hotel industry says such home sharing is a big business that needs more oversight. State and local lawmakers are considering proposals that include limiting the number of short-term rentals a person or company can own. The traditional lodging industry has started pushing back against vacation rentals. When short-term rentals become a "year-round party house," consumers and neighbors have little recourse and "unscrupulous landlords" can continue operating, said Carol Dover, president of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. Lawmakers last year proposed bills that would both give owners more freedom - or further restrict them - and the matter is likely to come up again during the next legislative session that begins in January. Meanwhile, local governments such as Miami Beach have imposed fines of a record $20,000 on home-sharers. Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Flagler County and Panama City Beach have passed ordinances in recent years limiting occupancy and parking at the rentals.
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LETTERS: A number of our legislators seem intent on taking away local control
Daytona Beach News-Journal
The discussions regarding home rule and short-term rentals owned and operated by investors was a hot topic this last legislative session, and will be even more contentious during the upcoming 2018 session. As you've probably read, a number of our legislators seem intent on taking away local control, including Flagler's own Rep. Paul Renner. Last year, Renner co-sponsored HB 425, which was designed to take away home rule. Luckily, it did not become law, due to some astute politicians and the actions of many residents/voters/constituents. In 2017, La Rosa sponsored HB 425 and Steube sponsored SB 188 - bills designed to take away home rule. La Rosa also is the co-founder of La Rosa Realty - a Florida company that touts, as one of its specialties, "short-term rental investments." So, as we gear up for the 2018 legislative session, find out what your representatives are doing to advance your priorities. Make sure your legislators pass the "smell test." A lot of them, unfortunately, do not seem to do so.
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Editorial: Tallahassee plots a coup against local governments
Orlando Sentinel
Rep. Paul Renner co-sponsored a sweeping bill this year that would have prevented local governments from passing any of their own regulations on business unless granted specific authority to do so by legislators. That bill was vehemently opposed by local leaders, Republicans as well as Democrats, and failed to pass. Republican Mayor Gary Bruhn of Windermere, the current president of the Florida League of Mayors, spearheaded opposition to the bill. It might be counterproductive for localities to impose some regulations, such as wage and benefit mandates, on businesses that operate statewide. But Renner's bill would have precluded a wide range of local policies aimed at protecting public health, safety, rights and quality of life. As we've argued before, local leaders are in the best position to set local policies. They live, work and govern in the communities where those policies apply. They deal day-to-day with the people and businesses affected by their decisions. Local leaders are the most accessible and accountable level of government, and meet year round. Legislators, who meet two months a year in regular session, are better off dedicating their limited time to state policies, not to micromanaging local affairs.
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Century Affirms Support For Home Rule
NorthEscambia.com
The Town of Century has approved a resolution in support of protecting and strengthening "home rule" in Florida. "The Town Council believes protecting and strengthening "Home Rule" authority would be in the best interests of the residents and businesses of the Town of Century and State of Florida," the resolution passed unanimously by the Century Town Council states. The resolution supports the Florida League of Cities' legislative efforts to protect home rule. The League has opposed any legislative effort that impedes home rule. The League will oppose any effort that interferes with a city's ability to provide the financial stability and essential services required by its residents and local businesses.
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Due To Irma, Some Lawmakers Warning Constituents About Funding For Local Projects
WUSF
Due to Hurricane Irma, Florida lawmakers are warning their constituents that they may not have a lot of money this year for local projects. It comes as legislators across the state hold legislative delegation meetings where the public, local governments, and organizations outline their funding requests. Speaking during a recent legislative delegation meeting in Santa Rosa, Sen. Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) said Irma is the only storm he knows of where all 67 counties lost electricity. And, he added the problems in Central and South Florida are enormous-primarily in the agricultural area. Broxson says while every lawmaker is going to try to do what they can for their district, it's important to note the legislature is dealing with a major issue it did not have last year.
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In Startling Avowal, Rep. Renner Says State Will Attack Home Rule to Discipline "Rogue," Leftist Cities

Flagler Live
Rep. Paul Renner, who represents all of Flagler County in the state House and is in line to be the Speaker of the House in 2022, took criticism earlier this year for pushing bills that diminish or eliminate home rule-the political principle that local matters are best left for city and county governments to decide. The state Legislature is becoming more aggressive in "pre-empting" local laws, meaning forbidding local governments from passing laws that go further than state law. Renner has been supportive of that approach, and appears to be becoming more so. Regarding vacation rentals, he said today that "it's much, much more likely that a bill that goes pretty far in the direction of preemption is passed than not." But speaking on WNZF Radio's Free For All Fridays this morning, Renner for the first time went much further, putting his philosophy in a larger context: state pre-emption will happen more and more in coming years because it reflects an ideological battle developing between a conservative state Legislature and more liberal urban centers such as Miami, St. Petersburg, Orlando and Jacksonville. All those cities have passed or tried to pass more progressive ordinances, whether to set a living wage at $15 an hour, require new homes to add solar panels, forbid the sale of puppies from puppy mills-or restrict vacation rentals. The cities are enacting those ordinances within their home-rule authority. To Renner and the conservative Florida Legislature, the cities are going "rogue" the moment they give room to liberal policies, whatever their constituency. Renner's avowal is startling for the degree to which he is essentially equating local autonomy as an affront to state authority, when that local autonomy differs ideologically from prevailing philosophies in the state house.
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Florida GOP leadership wants to punish "left-wing" cities
Tampa Bay Times
FlaglerLive.com came across a startling radio interview by Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, and thank goodness. It deserves attention. Here's why: Renner isn't just some powerless state representative who has to obey leadership. He is leadership, or at least, he's set to be in 2022 when he's slated to become House Speaker, and that kind of makes him leadership now. He said some pretty radical stuff that sounds brazenly anti-Democratic. 3. If you live in a city, and chances are, you do, Renner thinks you shouldn't be governed by the mayors and city councils you vote for. Not if, that is, they are Democrats. Really? In his own words: "What you're seeing, and this is part of a larger conversation we could have, is the concentration of support for a more center-left or left-wing viewpoint, and this is again not Flagler County, but our major cities, San Francisco, New York. The Democrat(ic) Party has really become a party of dense urban areas and the rest of the country tends to be more conservative, more Republican. So part of the fight, part of the sub-context of this whole discussion, is that the reason we think (cities) are going rogue is because it's Bernie Sanders in charge of your local city government or county government in some cases, and doing things that really are sharp departures from the way the country has become so prosperous, so strong and so free." Renner isn't a backbencher. He is in line to become one of the most powerful people in Florida.
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Column: Florida Legislature threatens home-rule of cities (Mayors' Council of Pinellas County)
Tampa Bay Times
Last session, key state lawmakers in Tallahassee introduced a variety of legislative proposals aimed at handicapping the ability of local governments to serve their communities. The Mayors' Council of Pinellas County believes this anti-local government trend will likely continue into the 2018 session because some lawmakers believe the Florida Legislature has the constitutional right to pre-empt local governments. Therefore, it is more important than ever that mayors unite to remind our state representatives and state senators that over 40 years ago, Floridians voted to empower themselves with the right of local self-government - known as home rule. Cities continue to feel as if they are under attack by some state legislators seeking to stifle their ability to self-govern, eliminate citizens' ability to engage policymakers at local public forums and force financially healthy cities to significantly spend down reserves. That would cripple the ability of cities to sustain themselves during economic downturns and emergency situations and negatively impact their credit ratings. It would also result in being forced to pay higher interest rates to borrow money. Another concern mayors have this legislative session is that legislation may be introduced that could force healthy cities to become fiscally unstable. Last, any legislative efforts to dismantle or eliminate the funding for Community Redevelopment Agencies would be a gigantic leap backward for economic growth and development.
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Cape Council rejects vacation rental proposal
Fort Myers Beach Talk
The city of Cape Coral's controversial plan to change policy on short-term vacation rentals was rejected Monday although the concept may head back to the drawing board. After nearly a year of debate, tabling and changes, the Cape Coral City Council on Monday unanimously killed a resolution that would have imposed new regulations on vacation rentals. Realtors, residents and property managers all stepped forward during public comment in opposition of the measure, which they said would be represent too much government overreach and be too difficult to enforce. Councilmember Richard Leon immediately made a motion to reject the ordinance. Mayor Marni Sawicki agreed, saying more work still has to be done. Councilmember Marilyn Stout suggested the issued be tabled once again so city staff can make the necessary fixes and, perhaps, create a new ordinance.
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Illegal rentals remain an issue after Irma
Keys News
Will Reyes, code enforcement officer for Islamorada, says that while Airbnb and others make posting and finding non-permitted rentals easier than ever, the number of illegal rentals hasn't risen during his four years on the job. One of the problems with enforcement, according to Reyes, is that not only is the $500 fine imposed by the village not enough to deter those offering short-term rentals, it has proven difficult to gather substantial evidence that an illegal rental transaction has been made. He says another issue is the ordinance itself, which has enough holes that those in the know can find space to operate. "There are loopholes in our ordinance that are readily (exploited) if you know what you're doing," he added. That ordinance could theoretically be strengthened, of course, but there's a hitch: Reyes says that if the Village Council did make changes to existing code, it could lose the ordinance altogether. According to Florida statute, municipalities stand to lose their ordinances concerning illegal rentals if amendments to current law are made. 
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BIEO members begin fight for home rule
Anna Maria Island Sun
The Island's elected officials are beginning preparations for a Legislative fight. During the Barrier Island Elected Officials October meeting, members discussed priorities for the upcoming state Legislative session, primarily attacks geared toward repealing home rule protections for municipalities. "The attack being prepared is stronger than a lot of us realize," Holmes Beach Commissioner Carol Soustek said. "We've got to work through this whole session," said Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson. Soustek said she's concerned with the misinformation concerning home rule being bandied about in Tallahassee. Some of the rumors she mentioned include claims of taking away the right to rent properties from owners, plus state claims of inspecting all vacation rental properties. Commissioner Jean Peelen said she would like to be able to present state senators and representatives with hard numbers of how many vacation rental properties are owned by investors. Soustek agreed. Johnson and Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon appeared the following day before the Manatee County Legislative delegation to discuss home rule.
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Senate workshop on vacation rentals previews upcoming legislative fight
TCPalm
The Senate Community Affairs Committee has drawn the lines for next session's home rule battle. When a bill lifting local regulations on home-sharing rentals offered by companies like Airbnb sailed through the House last session, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, thought senators had a "superficial" understanding of the issue. Senators let the proposal die on the Senate floor. Sen. Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, sponsored last year's proposal preempting local ordinances and said he will do so again for the upcoming session. Lee wanted the Senate to be prepared. "Sometimes we don't take up an issue until someone files a bill and that's a little too late to be learning," Lee said Tuesday. "I wanted to workshop this upfront because it is starting to have an impact not only on the hotel restaurant industry but on homeowners' associations and even in some cases property tax rolls." In recent years, the Legislature has thrown out local ordinances on guns, drones, ride-sharing, marijuana dispensaries and gas station signage. Lawmakers attacking vacation rentals ordinances say the state needs a uniform rule that protects property rights.
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City votes to continue downtown CRA, focus on infrastructure
WCTV
The Tallahassee City Commission voted on the fate of the downtown district of the Community Redevelopment Agency, Wednesday. This, after the county voted to withdraw itself from the district, Tuesday. The city voted unanimously to continue supporting the district, without county support, but restrict its funding to infrastructure projects, eliminating funds for small businesses and major projects. This restriction will apply solely to the downtown district, not to the Southside-Frenchtown district. Commissioner Scott Maddox led the vote. "The only thing that I will vote for in the CRA is public infrastructure. Sidewalks, storm water, lighting or things with public access. I think there needs to be a clear public benefit before we approve any tax dollars," said Maddox. City Attorney Lew Shelley urged the City Manager to begin negotiations to uncouple the inter-local agreement immediately with the County Administrator, as to prevent any litigation from occurring.  
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Commission moves to beef up ethics ordinance
WCTV
The Tallahassee City Commission took steps Wednesday to strengthen its ethics ordinance and add more jurisdiction to its ethics board. "(To) give them some ability to enforce what the electorate wanted is the right thing to do," said City Commissioner Gil Ziffer, who pushed for Wednesday's workshop. "I hope that all of us can feel proud of our work and that the public will feel increasingly confident that we place our service to them ahead of our personal interest," said Richard Kerring, Chair of the Independent Ethics Board. The board suggested several amendments to the current ordinance, including rules on misuse of position, acceptance of gifts and financial disclosure.
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Florida lawmakers should drop hypocritical efforts to subvert home rule | Our view
TCPalm
Imagine a Florida where one set of state regulations governed key issues now decided at the local level. Take one example: Noise ordinances. Currently, each municipality and county in Florida determines its own noise ordinance. What is right for Stuart or Vero Beach might not work in Port St. Lucie or Melbourne. State law allows each local government to decide this issue - and many issues like it - for itself. But what if some - or many - statutory rights were preempted to the state? Here's hoping we never have to find out. It almost came to pass during last spring's legislative session. Consequently, local officials throughout Florida are speaking out against the precipitous erosion of home rule. "There are efforts underway at the state level to remove community redevelopment agencies and eliminate some of our revenues without replacing them," said Stuart Mayor Troy McDonald, a strong proponent of home rule. "I'm a firm believer that the most responsive government starts with people at the local level and works its way up." Agreed. There is a great deal of hypocrisy at the state level with respect to the home-rule issue. Florida lawmakers often rail against federal overreach and unfunded mandates imposed on the state by lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Yet these same state lawmakers have little or no reservation about placing greater restrictions on local governments. The Florida Legislature should discontinue its efforts to subvert home rule. Trampling on local self-government is contrary to the spirit of democracy.
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Indiantown in historic decision chooses to incorporate; measure passes with 63 percent
TCPalm
For the first time in 57 years, there's a new town in town. Voters on Tuesday, by a 63 percent margin, decided Indiantown, until now a western Martin County community, should become the village of Indiantown, according to final, unofficial results from the Martin County Supervisor of Elections. Incorporation was approved 576-337, according to final, unofficial results. The village, population 6,000, will be governed by a five-member Village Council, which will be elected March 13. Though the village officially is established Dec. 31, town functions - such as hiring the village manager and attorney - will not begin until March 21, the date of the first council meeting, according to a charter approved by the Legislature earlier this year.
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Speaker Richard Corcoran takes aim at CRAs
Pensacola News Journal
House Speaker Richard Corcoran has his sights trained on the state's 224 community redevelopment agencies. Efforts to regulate the local non-elected boards out of existence failed earlier this year, but the issue is clearly on the Speaker's agenda for 2018 and is gaining traction. The House and Senate are working on separate bills to add transparency and increase spending reporting requirements for the CRAs in the state. The CRAs were created to fight blight, but since the Legislature has removed construction of affordable housing from their mission, critics have raised questions about their practices. On Tuesday, a House committee approved a bill with one dissenting vote that imposes ethics training on CRA board members, requires budgets to be posted online and clears a path to sunset the boards. Minutes later, the Speaker's office went on the attack. A Senate version of the CRA bill advanced last week. It heaps new regulations on the agencies, restricts spending and compels people who pitch projects to register as lobbyists.
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FRA head strikes back: 'Redevelopment is about the people'
Florida Politics
With the House of Representatives now trying to take out community redevelopment agencies (CRAs), the head of the Florida Redevelopment Association is fighting back. "Community redevelopment agencies breathe new life into communities that have been neglected or forgotten, and their impact goes far beyond the buildings and roads they help develop," said Carol Westmoreland, executive director of the association. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has made it a 2018 Legislative Session priority to rein in the state's more than 200 community redevelopment agencies. The chamber already is moving a bill (HB 17) requiring, among other things, more transparency and board member ethics trainings. The legislation, ready for the House floor in January, was followed by a House Media Team video slamming CRAs as vehicles for local government to pay for their "pet projects." But the "work of our local CRAs is about the community and those living in it; redevelopment is about the people," Westmoreland said in a statement. "These efforts should not go unnoticed, unrecognized or misrepresented, as CRAs are dedicated to our citizens and restoring our communities to make them come alive. Unfortunately, Florida's CRAs are currently under attack by proposed legislation that will enact crippling regulations in an attempt to impede the creation of new CRAs and phase out existing programs. Without local CRAs, the progress that has been made in redevelopment will come to a halt; property values will drop, and communities will suffer."
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Stop chipping away at home rule (Palm Beach Mayor Gail Coniglio)
Palm Beach Daily News
Home rule, or the ability of cities and towns to govern themselves, was enacted by Florida voters nearly 50 years ago, in 1968. Home rule provides a municipality with the flexibility to shape its laws specifically to meet its unique needs and to offer essential services to its residents and businesses on a local level. In recent years, the Florida Legislature has been proposing and passing laws that undermine and restrict municipalities' home-rule powers and attempt to transfer local control to the State Legislature. Local governments are banding together, in conjunction with the Florida League of Cities, to raise awareness, encourage residents to become involved and let their opinions be known for the upcoming legislative session in an effort to protect home rule. The protection of home rule powers ensures that government remains close to the people it serves with accessibility and accountability to local officials.
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Jax Council measure deems state tree trimming bill an 'assault on home rule'
Florida Politics
Jacksonville City Councilman John Crescimbeni will introduce legislation this week that opposes a state bill (HB 521/SB 574) that would cut the heart out of the city's tree canopy protections. The state bill, filed by Republican Greg Steube in the Senate and Democrat Katie Edwards in the House, would prohibit cities such as Jacksonville from stopping landowners from removing trees located on their own private property. Bills like this, asserts Crescimbeni, "are a direct assault of the home rule powers of Jacksonville and other cities, towns and counties in Florida and are contrary to the view often stated by members of the legislature that the government that is the closest to the people is the government that is best."
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Link to article on Home Rule and CRC
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-mayor-urges-strengthen-home-rule-crc-20171127-story.html

Here's how we can keep local decisions in local hands (FLC President Gil Ziffer)
TCPalm
The tryptophan from last week's Turkey Day will barely wear off before members of Florida's Constitution Revision Commission put the Sunshine State's founding document under the microscope. Every 20 years, the commission convenes to discuss changes to the state's charter. And this week, they're considering a big change in how cities do business. A new measure called Proposal 61 would raise the bar for state laws that restrict the decision-making rights of local communities. The amendment is based on a simple idea: local decisions should be made by local communities, not distant governments. Each city, county, town and village should be governed by its own citizens, especially in a state as big and diverse as Florida. Proposal 61 requires that lawmakers provide at least 48-hours of public notice before voting on measures that restrict local decision-making. This proposal also asks the state to justify policies that concentrate power in Tallahassee at the expense of local towns and taxpayers. Most importantly, this common-sense amendment says anything that restricts the rights of local communities should be considered on its own merits, as a standalone bill - not stapled to must-pass legislation at the last minute, without a full debate in broad daylight. Proposal 61 is a sensible, easy-to-support measure that balances the power of the state with the rights and freedoms of Florida's local towns and taxpayers.
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​TBT Editorial: The Florida Legislature's assault on cities and counties
Tampa Bay Times
The Florida Legislature's message is clear: Tallahassee knows best, and cities and counties should sit down and shut up. Like bullies on the block, lawmakers are more determined than ever to control what happens in the neighborhood rather than leave those decisions to local county commissioners, mayors and city council members. They want to decide whether red light cameras are banned, write the rules for cutting down trees and dictate how county jails deal with undocumented immigrants. They want to oversee short-term rentals in every corner of the state, restrict tools for reviving poor neighborhoods and determine where professional sports stadiums can be built and how they can be funded. They even want to make it as hard as possible for local officials to borrow money or rely on local property taxes to pay for local priorities. House Speaker Richard Corcoran leads the assault. He implores local governments to stay in their lane when it's the Legislature hogging the road. He implausibly claims state legislators, with their fat campaign accounts and strong ties to special-interest lobbyists, are closer to the people than city council members or county commissioners. That may have been true in the dark ages, when Florida was just another southern backwater and Disney World didn't exist, moon launches from Cape Canaveral were fantasy and the Legislature was controlled by a handful of powerful white men from rural counties. But in 1968, voters approved a revised Florida Constitution that provides for home rule. St. Petersburg is not St. Augustine. Tampa is not Tallahassee, and Clearwater is not Clewiston. Local issues should be decided by locally elected leaders who are closest to their neighbors, not the arrogant, all-knowing, all-powerful Florida Legislature.
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Editorial: Lawmakers should leave home rule alone
The Ledger
A long-forgotten literary and political magazine is credited with coining the phrase that encapsulated the mindset of foes of big government throughout America's history - from the likes of Christopher Gadsden, creator of the famous bright yellow flag of dissent, to recent tea partiers. "The best government is that which governs least." Such was the motto of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review, which sprang to life during Andrew Jackson's presidency and faded away just before the Civil War. Perhaps someone can dig out and send copies to Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran to remind him and the rest of the Republican leadership in the Legislature that they should stay off our backs - as would be preferred by local officials and their advocates with the Florida Association of Counties, or FAC. Many local elected officials are still smarting from our lawmakers' decision earlier this year to append to the 2018 ballot a constitutional referendum that could expand Florida's homestead exemption. Given the unquenchable thirst for tax cuts, the measure will likely reach the 60 percent necessary for adoption. But the proposed homestead exemption is just the best known of the many ways lawmakers want to dictate - there really is no better word; meddle seems to meek - to local governments about how they should operate. The Legislature also wants to tell local governments how to regulate things such as tree-trimming, rental properties, zoning, economic development and who knows what else.
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Editorial: Tallahassee takes reckless aim at community redevelopment agencies in another broadside on home rule
Orlando Sentinel
or almost half a century, a Florida law has entrusted county and city governments to set aside a share of local property tax revenues for urban redevelopment. Now this authority, like other powers of home rule in Florida, is in Tallahassee's cross hairs. Some state legislators are proposing to impede local governments in creating new community redevelopment agencies, and phase out existing CRAs. While a 2016 report from a grand jury in Miami-Dade County contended there have been abuses of tax dollars in some local agencies, this is overkill from legislators. We agree with Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, whose city has created a CRA to revitalize its downtown. "If there are abuses, let's fix the abuses," Kilsheimer told the Sentinel. "Local officials have a better understanding of their communities than people in Tallahassee, [and] I'm concerned that Tallahassee is going to throw the baby out with the bath water."
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Florida's meddlesome preemption laws preempt local values | Fred Grimm
SunSentinel
Residing in a neighborhood of perpetual bacchanalia with gaggles of inebriated celebrants wobbling past my house in the early morning hours, well, if I was 18 that would sound like the most fun hereabouts since Fort Lauderdale entertained so many beery spring breakers. Unhappily, I'm not 18. Sharing my street with knuckleheads has lost its allure. So while short-term renters howl at the moon, long-term residents howl at city hall. Florida's tourist towns do what they can. Which isn't much, thanks to state law. But even those tepid city ordinances could well be erased by a state legislature that delights in meddling in local affairs. Last week, Sen. Greg Steube, a veritable maestro of state laws designed to bring city and county governments to heel, filed a preemption bill that would wipe out local regulation of vacation rentals. All that would become the purview of state government. Cities would be prohibited from even inspecting these joints. Steube's bill (SB 1400) states that the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants shall be "solely responsible for all inspections." Conservative Republicans rail about big government mandates and federal interference in state prerogatives, because local folks know what's best. Yet they fairly delight in passing bills that appropriate the powers of city and county elected officials. No issue is too petty. Steube has also introduced a bill (SB 378) that would undo local ordinances that prohibit drivers from backing into parking garage parking spaces. We're already suffering from a long list of preemption laws that preempt common sense. And if Steube gets his way, my neighborhood can look forward to more unfettered partying, late-night hell-raising and a fleet of strange cars parked up and down the block.
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Editorial: Short-term rentals are local concern
Herald-Tribune
The arguments against state Sen. Greg Steube's continued attempt to replace locally crafted ordinances regulating short-term rentals with a statewide, one-size-fits-all law fall into two categories: principle and practical. The important principle is that certain decisions are best left to elected leaders in cities and counties - with direct input from the people most likely to be affected in their own communities. But Steube, a Republican from Sarasota County, is part of the "Tallahassee knows best" movement, which his party used to decry until it dominated state government. Using the so-called pre-emption tactic, the Legislature has imposed laws statewide and effectively nullified local ordinances on matters from fertilizer to guns. Current legislators continue to pre-empt local decisions on impact fees, red-light cameras and, in Steube's case, tree removal and protocols for parking garages. (Yes, Senate Bill 378 would prevent local governments from prohibiting motorists from, or ticketing them for, backing into parking spaces in public garages.) There are countless cases in which state and federal laws and rules are necessary and beneficial. Yet there are times to defer to local conditions and community sentiment. Steube unintentionally made a practical case against his bill in a comment to Zac Anderson of the Herald-Tribune. The senator said that, if Senate Bill 1400 becomes law, Florida will have "a similar framework for the entire state versus the city of Sarasota having regulations, the city of Bradenton, Anna Maria, Longboat Key all having regulations." But the reality-based problem with that approach is that the differences between, say, the cities of Anna Maria and Sarasota are both relevant and significant. Anna Maria has no high-rises; Sarasota has plenty, and each municipality has a distinct character.
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4 things the TCPalm Editorial Board wants Florida lawmakers to tackle | Our view
TCPalm
The Florida Legislature begins its session Tuesday. The Editorial Board of Treasure Coast Newspapers is calling on lawmakers to take action on the following four priorities. Build the reservoir - the right way. Protect home rule. PTSD coverage for first-responders. Protect taxpayers from rail costs. There's an ugly trend among legislators in Tallahassee: trampling on the rights of local officials to do their jobs based on the wishes of their constituents. After all, government closest to the people is the most accessible. And local residents know what's best for their communities. But over the past few years - and again this year - legislators have sought to strip local governments' rights to set community policy on everything from noise and tree ordinances to vacation rentals and monument signs. They need to get the message: What's good for one community is not necessarily good for another. Lawmakers must oppose legislation that takes control out of the hands of local elected officials. They also should put on the November ballot proposed constitutional Amendment 61, which would limit state lawmakers from overstepping their bounds. Top-down government has no place in Florida.
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Along the Coast: Home rule: Locals fret about state bills' reach
Coastal Star
When the state Legislature begins its 60-day regular session this month, lawmakers will consider a wide range of proposed bills, many of which have already drawn the attention of concerned local government leaders. Among the bills proposed so far is one that would prevent a local government from prohibiting back-in parking in parking garages. Another bill would require local governments to respond to public questions at their meetings or provide written responses within 10 days as well as to incorporate the responses into the meeting minutes. Yet another would limit local governments' ability to regulate tree trimming on private property. Two bills already introduced, one in the Florida House of Representatives and another in the Senate, could place the authority to create Community Redevelopment Agencies in the hands of the Legislature rather than local government and prevent CRAs from providing funding to nonprofit organizations. While the bills have different degrees of impact, each is seen by local government leaders as eroding their ability to govern their communities. It is, they say, an erosion of the concept of home rule, where elected officials on the local level make policies that affect the people they represent. These new bills, they say, are a continuation of a trend that has many in Palm Beach County concerned. "We've seen this go in cycles before, but nothing like this," said Richard Radcliffe, executive director of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. "This is unprecedented."
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Local Lawmakers Propose Stricter Regulations For Special Taxing Districts
WUSF
Two state lawmakers from Tampa Bay want to change the way some special taxing districts are run in the state. Bills filed by state Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) and state Representative Jake Raburn (R-Valrico) would place new regulations on community redevelopment agencies (CRAs). These agencies funnel tax dollars back into neighborhoods - many of which are impoverished. There are currently 222 active CRAs across Florida, including in Tampa, Lakeland and St. Petersburg. The Florida League of Cities, an organization that lobbies on behalf of cities, is opposing the bills. David Cruz is assistant general counsel for the League. He said the group is in favor of the increased reporting and audit requirements, but opposes any attempt to get rid of community redevelopment agencies altogether. "With elections at a local level, our city leaders are replaced quite frequently, so it's very difficult to look at an area with a long term approach," Cruz said. "Community redevelopment organizations are looking at slum and blight with a focused mission." Cruz also said CRAs allow cities the flexibility to address issues in neighborhoods where conditions are rapidly changing.
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City, county officials warn of bill stripping local control of protecting trees
Orlando Sentinel
The streets of Winter Park, Windermere, Sanford, Leesburg and 14 other Central Florida cities and towns are draped in the lush foliage that led each to be named a "Tree City USA." But a bill filed by a Sarasota state senator could dramatically change city streetscapes if it becomes law. The legislation (SB 574), filed by Republican state Sen. Greg Steube of Sarasota - itself a Tree City - would strip cities and counties of the ability to create protections for trees on private property. "This bill would make it a fact that no city or town in Florida could ever be a Tree City," said Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn, president of the Florida League of Mayors, who said the group will oppose it when the legislative session begins in January. "I think it's an absolute travesty, quite frankly." Steube, whose office did not return requests for comment, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune he was annoyed when he learned he had to get a permit to cut down trees and haul away the debris to build a three-car garage.
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Downtown Column: Legislators should get out of Downtown's way
Florida Times-Union
The Florida Constitution is clear: It protects the important principle of home rule, which recognizes that cities and counties are often best positioned to address their own needs. As the Palm Beach Post editorial page recently explained, "local officials are better equipped to respond quickly to local residents. ... Tampa is not Tallahassee. Monticello is not Miami. And Jupiter is not Jacksonville." Unfortunately, some members of the Legislature appear to have forgotten this bedrock tenet of the Florida Constitution. Many bills filed for consideration in the 2018 legislative session have abandoned the time-honored belief in home rule for a Tallahassee-knows-best philosophy. Perhaps most emblematic of this concerning trend are proposals to ban local governments from preserving trees. The Jacksonville City Council said it best in a recent resolution: "Such bills are ... contrary to the view often stated by members of the Legislature that the government that is the closest to the people is the government that is best." In addition to thwarting local popular will, Tallahassee's top-down thinking threatens to stymie progress in revitalizing Downtown Jacksonville. Source

Editorial: Violating Florida's home rule law
Ocala StarBanner
Bills pending in the Legislature, which opened its session Tuesday, would prevent cities and counties from regulating short-term home rentals, overtake local ordinances on trees and impose significant limits on community redevelopment organizations. These bills and the pre-emption trend are troubling. They ignore and undermine the principle of home rule, which was established in 1968 when voters approved wide-ranging changes to the Florida Constitution. The establishment of home rule, which enables local governments to enact ordinances and policies without state approval (so long as they don't conflict with Florida law or its constitution), was prescient. The home rule principle has enabled cities and counties to craft local responses to the widely divergent needs of the state's populace. There are significant differences among, say, Ocala, Orlando and Ormond Beach. Those differences should be addressed differently. Consider this: Florida has five counties with populations exceeding 1 million (six states have fewer than 1 million residents) and 25 counties with less than 50,000 residents - including seven with less than 15,000. Should the rules be the same in Miami-Dade (2.7 million) and Liberty (8,202) counties? Of course not.
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Florida's cities are on guard against legislative moves to limit local powers
Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times
Although the legislative session doesn't start until Tuesday, a group representing Florida cities was already gearing up for a fight to combat what it said was a slew of proposed bills that would erode local powers on a range of issues from election calendars to tree ordinances. Representatives from the Florida League of Cities told reporters Monday that preventing bills from preempting local powers was a "super-priority" for this session, which lasts two months. The group has battled in recent years against legislation that takes home rule powers and gives them to the state. "Cities have taken the lead on a number of issues: the opioid crisis, internet gambling cafes, just a whole host of issues ... and we waited for the Legislature to take action," said Scott Dudley, lobbyist for the group. "In the last couple of years there seems to be an urge by the Legislature to take over that ability to solve local problems locally." Bills that the League of Cities has identified as intrusive include a proposal that would require state legislative approval for cities to create new community redevelopment agencies (CRAs) designed to encourage new development in ostensibly blighted urban areas, as well as bills that restrict local ability to regulate vacation rentals like Airbnb.
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Editorial: 'Preemption' laws violate home rule
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Legislating in a state with 21 million residents is, no doubt, difficult. However, the Legislature could easily avoid making matters worse in 2018 by abandoning its "Tallahassee knows best" mindset. The Republican-dominated Legislature has in recent years employed "pre-emption" to replace locally crafted ordinances with statewide laws. Bills pending in the Legislature, which opens its session today, would prevent cities and counties from regulating short-term home rentals, overtake local ordinances on trees and impose significant limits on community redevelopment organizations. These bills and the pre-emption trend are troubling. They ignore and undermine the principle of home rule, which was established in 1968 when voters approved wide-ranging changes to the Florida Constitution. For decades, the act and resulting balance of power served Florida and its communities well. The home rule principle has enabled cities and counties to craft local responses to the widely divergent needs of the state's populace. And it's not as though local governments don't have skin in the game: In recent years, local governments have generated about 46 percent of tax income statewide. Much has changed in Florida during the past 50 years, but the value of home rule has not. Let it stand.
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Editorial: Legislature should leave decisions close to the people
Naples Daily News
What do Naples and Miami have in common? What about Duval County (population 925,000), Collier County (population 360,000) and Baker County (population 28,000)? Marco Island and Clewiston? Bonita Springs and Orlando? If you're struggling for answers, you might want to ask members of the Legislature who are advocating that one size fits all for Florida's 67 counties and 400-plus municipalities. In 2017, some lawmakers engaged in a power-hungry assault on "home rule," a principle established in the Florida Constitution in 1968. Some of the very lawmakers sure to grouse about Washington, D.C., telling the state what to do have turned around and advocated bills pre-empting cities and counties from regulating hydraulic fracturing (fracking) sites, ride-hailing services, vacation rentals, drones, wireless antennas in rights of way and gas station signs, as examples. As the 2018 session gets underway Tuesday, some lawmakers are at it again. Senate Bill 574 and companion House Bill 521 would pre-empt local governments from regulating the trimming or removal of trees on private property. HB 17 would eliminate the right, as of Oct. 1, for local governments to create a redevelopment agency that can improve a blighted or economically struggling area. Like the counties' association, the Florida League of Cities points to an erosion of home rule as its major concern for the session starting Tuesday. "The league anticipates that legislative efforts to divest citizens of their powers of local self-government and transfer control over local decisions to the state Legislature will continue in the 2018 legislative session," a league report says. We don't need Tallahassee politicians making decisions best left to elected city and county leaders who are closer to the people.
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Cities Fear Loss of Local Control
Capitol News Service
When Florida lawmakers return to the Capitol tomorrow, one of the items on the agenda of House leaders is continued preemption of local government's ability to regulate things such as vacation rentals or local tree trimming requirements. Scott Dudley, Chief Lobbyist for The Florida League of Cities is lamenting the effort, saying local governments know what's best for their local communities. "We have ordinances that say you can't cut down certain size trees unless you get a permit from the city and have basically, a public input process to it. Cities lose that. They lose their own unique personality and their own look." Last year, lawmakers took away local governments authority to regulate new, 5G wireless towers. The Cities are expecting an onslaught of attempts to preempt many local regulations to the state this year.
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Legislature 2018: War over home rule heating up in Florida
Herald-Tribune
It's not just tree regulations that have Steube, R-Sarasota, and other lawmakers miffed. In recent years state leaders have accused local officials of going overboard in regulating everything from guns to lawn fertilizer to small businesses. In addition to his tree bill, Steube also has filed bills this year preempting local governments from banning "back-in" parking at public garages and regulating vacation rentals. Florida lawmakers are considering a host of other provisions aimed at reining in local government authority, from legislation punishing so-called "sanctuary" cities and counties that deviate from federal immigration enforcement requirements to a bill banning red-light cameras. Local governments are fighting back, accusing the Legislature of meddling in issues that are best left to local communities and forsaking their conservative principles by taking authority away from elected leaders who are closer to the people. The Florida League of Cities is working to kill at least nine preemption bills that the group opposes this session. The preemption battle in Florida is part of a national trend. Critics argue that many of the preemption efforts place financial gain above community concerns and are being driven by corporate interests. "It's difficult for me to grasp why it's happening unless you look at the economics," said Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy. "The old saying, 'follow the money,' maybe that's where it's at. (Corporations) can afford the lobbyists, they can afford the huge contributions. The city can't, the average resident can't." 
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Home rule, housing crisis key concerns as Florida's legislative session begins | South Florida 100
SunSentinel
South Florida's most influential people weigh in on current events. Read their thoughts on the biggest stories of the week and see what they think will make headlines next week. Dan Daley, Vice Mayor, Coral Springs; president, Broward League of Cities - Looking ahead: The 2018 Legislative Session begins on Tuesday. Broward's municipalities and the Broward League of Cities will have laser focus on protecting and defending home rule, the constitutional right enabling our cities to develop unique and innovative solutions to problems affecting them individually. Local elected officials are best positioned to understand the challenges and needs of our residents. We're the "boots on the ground" governments that hear from our residents daily. One-size-fits-all legislative solutions will not fix or help our neighborhoods meet their challenges and opportunities. We must stand up for the right of our communities to determine their own destinies. Robert Weinroth, council member, Boca Raton - Looking ahead: The most dangerous 60 days in Florida begin on Tuesday as the 2018 legislative session opens. The early session was called to allow many in both chambers standing for re-election time to campaign in their districts. That is small consolation for candidates vying for two open seats (one in each chamber) created by resignations with the primary for SD 31 called for Jan. 30 and the election to fill HD 72 scheduled for Feb. 13. Meanwhile, county and municipal elected leaders will be in Tallahassee vigorously lobbying to protect home rule from a new set of attacks by House leadership.
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Editorial: As Florida legislators prepare to convene for their 2018 session, here are 10 of our policy priorities for them
Orlando Sentinel
Florida legislators will convene for their annual 60-day session against the backdrop of a pivotal election year. But politics are not a good excuse for senators and representatives to avoid the hard choices they must make to tackle the state's biggest challenges. Here are areas where we're urging legislators to act - or in one case, hold the line against further incursions. Home rule: House leaders have signaled they intend to step up their onslaught this year on county and city government authority. Bills have been introduced to preempt local ordinances on short-term home rentals and tree trimming, and more one-size-fits-all dictates from Tallahassee could be in the pipeline. Legislators need to leave local issues to local governments, whose leaders are most accessible and most accountable to local voters. This is one of the areas where good policy means playing defense against bad bills.
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Corcoran Supports Sanctuary Policy Ban Despite Concerns About Constitutionality
WFSU
Florida's Speaker of the House is promising to pass a bill restricting sanctuary policies in the first week of this year's legislative session. That's despite arguments that the plan is unconstitutional. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is throwing his weight behind a plan to block sanctuary policies in Florida. He recently released this campaign-style ad in support of the 'Rule of Law Adherence Act'. Corcoran is widely expected to run for governor this year. Specifically, the bill would require local law enforcement to comply with federal detainer requests. So if a local sheriff has arrested someone the feds believe is undocumented, the locals would have to share information, or allow interviews, or hold an otherwise releasable person for 48 hours until the feds pick them up. Normally that would all be voluntary. It's the third year Representative Larry Metz (R-Groveland) has sponsored the bill.
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