Dana Young Archives - Page 3 of 26 - SaintPetersBlog

Capitol Reax: Tax cuts, certificates of need, whiskey and Wheaties, fracking

Gov. Rick Scott proposed $618 million in tax cuts this week, which included four back to school holidays and reducing the commercial lease tax.

“Governor Scott’s ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ tax package includes a number of cuts which will significantly support Florida’s retailers, including a reduction in the business rent tax, cutting the business tax and including an expanded back-to-school sales tax holiday among others. FRF is excited about what the Governor’s tax cut package will mean for growing Sunshine State businesses, creating new jobs for Florida families and ensuring our state remains competitive.” – Randy Miller, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.

 “We know from talking to job creators across the state and the nation that the tax on commercial leases puts Florida at a competitive disadvantage. Governor Scott has demonstrated an incredible commitment to doing everything possible to make it easier for businesses to succeed, and these recommended tax cuts are critical to ensuring continued economic growth. NFIB is proud to fully support this proposal and we look forward to the Legislature cutting $618 million in taxes this year.” – Bill Herrle, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

“Every step we take to make Florida more business-friendly means more job creators choosing to move to and reinvest in our state. Governor Scott’s recommended $618 million tax cut package will help businesses large and small invest more in creating jobs for our families and will help ensure Florida’s economy will continue to grow well into the future. We are fighting to make our state the best place for job creators and families to succeed and the Florida Chamber of Commerce will continue to work with Governor Scott and the Legislature this year to support this tax cut package.” – David Hart, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce

“Governor Scott’s proposed $618 million tax cut package truly fights for both job creators and families across the state. Over the past few years, we have seen the exciting impact tax cuts have had on helping businesses move to and grow in our state, as well as the importance of helping Floridians keep more of their hard-earned money. In order to continue to help our economy grow, we must remain committed to lowering the cost of doing business, and reducing the business rent tax will surely help us meet that goal. AIF is proud to join Governor Scott in fighting for Florida’s future by supporting the passage of $618 million in tax cuts.” – Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida.

Republican Sen. Dana Young filed legislation aimed to ban hydraulic fracking in Florida this week. The bill comes after years of failed attempts to ban the controversial technique by Florida Democrats.

“Our industry has a long history of providing environmental and economic benefits. The United States is the leading producer of oil, natural gas and refined product in the world, and the decades-old technique of hydraulic fracturing has led to lower energy costs for consumers and improvements in the environment. Senator Dana Young’s proposed ban could undermine the benefits that Florida families and consumers are seeing today. “The technology has been proven safe, and Florida is realizing the economic and environmental benefits of its use. Thanks in part to the increased use of domestic natural gas, ozone concentrations in the air have dropped by 17 percent since 2000, all of which makes the United States not just an energy superpower, but also a leader in reducing global emissions. Let’s not move backwards when the gains of energy security are important for Florida families.” – David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council.

“Florida Conservation Voters applauds Senator Dana Young for sponsoring a ban on the dangerous process of fracking for oil and gas (SB 442). Fracking poses too big a risk for the millions of Florida families and visitors who rely on our groundwater for safe, clean drinking water. We’re pleased to see that Senator Young’s bill addresses both hydraulic fracturing, which breaks rock formations to extract fossil fuels and acidizing, which dissolves them. We look forward to working with Sen. Young throughout the 2017 Legislative Session as we work to ban fracking in Florida once and for all.” – Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters

Gov. Scott this week called on state officials to repeal the state’s certificate of need program.

“Repealing certificate of need laws is long overdue. Floridians’ access to quality care has been hampered by this burdensome restriction that has remained in place due to special interests’ focus on profits over patient outcomes. Repealing CON laws will lead to lowering health care costs and expending access to the care our Floridians deserve.” – Chris Hudson, state director, Americans for Prosperity-Florida

The Florida House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee used its meeting this week to hold a panel discussion on workers’ compensation.

“Insurers appreciate the subcommittee panel discussion on the current state of the Florida workers’ compensation system. PCI and our members believe the current Florida workers’ compensation system provides essential benefits to injured workers in a timely, efficient and economically sound manner, and the wage-replacement benefit system balances the interests of employees and employers. We continue to support the 2003 Florida workers’ compensation reforms that were put in place to protect the interests of employees, as well as help control costs for business owners.

“Workers’ compensation insurers are dedicated to fostering a healthy market for workers’ compensation that accommodates employee and employer needs. If you allow frivolous lawsuits with high dispute resolution costs to disrupt the system, it can be detrimental to the stabilization of the marketplace. It’s important to continue to provide quality care benefits to injured workers at a reasonable cost.

“We encourage lawmakers to work toward a solution that protects workers, while fostering a healthy Florida marketplace so the burden of workers’ compensation costs don’t fall on employers and employees.” – Logan McFaddin, regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee passed a bill to that would bring down the so-called liquor wall and repeal a Prohibition-era law.

“Today members of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee demonstrated their support for common sense, pro-business policies by passing Senate Bill 106, which repeals the Prohibition-era Alcohol Separation Law which requires distilled spirits to be sold separately from beer, wine and groceries. On behalf of Floridians for Fair Business Practices, we applaud their decision.

We commend bill sponsors Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores and Representative Bryan Avila for their diligent efforts to tear down barriers to business growth and expansion. This antiquated law does not demonstrate any benefits to Florida consumers and retailers, and its repeal would mirror society’s desire for convenience in a changing marketplace.  Our coalition is pleased to continue discussing the benefits of passing a repeal to the outdated law with additional committees as this bill is considered in the legislature.” – Richard Turner, general counsel and vice president of government relations of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and a member of the Floridians for Fair Business Practices coalition.

Sen. Rob Bradley filed a bill to bond money backed with Amendment 1 dollars to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee, a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron.

“We thank Senator Bradley for recognizing that a water crisis anywhere in Florida is a water crisis and filing this important legislation. Coastal communities were under a state of emergency for 242 days in 2016 as a result of Lake Okeechobee discharges. The creation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan nearly two decades ago recognized the great need for a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area in order to reduce the harmful discharges to the estuaries and to preserve water for when it’s desperately needed during the dry seasons. … Senator Bradley’s filing of SB 10 today moves us closer to having this critical water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that will be cost-matched by the federal government, and we applaud him for taking action to respond to Florida’s water crisis this legislative session.” – Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation.

“Senator Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) has shown true leadership for Florida’s coastal communities and the Everglades by filing Senate Bill 10 today. The tragedies facing Florida’s coastal estuaries in 2016 were devastating to local economies and the environment. Floridians are hungry for this type of bold action to save Florida’s Everglades. After hearing from experts about water storage solutions, Sen. Bradley’s actions show that a ‘wait and see’ approach for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee is not acceptable. Audubon looks forward to working with the Florida Senate and House of Representatives to pass SB10.” — Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida’s.

Drug Free America urges caution as lawmakers discuss Amendment 2 implementation

Drug Free America is urging Florida lawmakers to “proceed with caution” as they begin crafting legislation to implement the state’s newest medical marijuana law.

“While we were opposed to Amendment 2 for a number of specific reasons, we recognize Florida voters have spoken,” said Calvina Fay, the executive director of Drug Free America, in a statement. “We also recognize lawmakers will soon convene and consider implementing language … that will dictate policy for generations to come. We strongly urge them to exercise extreme caution moving forward.

On Thursday, Sen. Rob Bradley filed Senate Bill 406, the Amendment 2 implementing bill. The bill comes just days after the Department of Health initiated the process of developing rules, as outlined under the ballot language.

The bill, among other things, allows for the growth of medical marijuana treatment centers once the number of registered patients hits a certain number.

“In 2014, the Florida Legislature legalized low-THC medical marijuana, and in 2016 expanded the medical marijuana system to provide legal access to marijuana for terminally ill Floridians,” said Bradley in a statement last week. “Floridians want even more options, speaking loud and clear at the polls in November by passing Amendment Two. This bill significantly expands the current medical marijuana system to give Floridians the relief they have demanded, and it does so safely and quickly.”

Under Bradley’s bill, the Department of Health is required register five more medical marijuana treatment centers within six months of 250,000 qualified patients registering with the compassionate use registry. It then allows for more five more treatment centers to receive licenses after the 350,000 qualified patients, 400,000 qualified patients, 500,000 qualified patients, and after each additional 100,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.

Existing law does allow for some growth, authorizing the state health department to issue three more licenses once 250,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.

“As we’ve seen in states like Colorado and California, measures intended to open the door just a little, results in the door opening far too wide,” said Fay. “Because marijuana – and this is not a surprise to anyone – is subject to abuse, has a robust black market, and is the drug of choice for too many of our nation’s youth, the ‘market’ will rapidly and dramatically take advantage of every loophole that can be exploited.”

Fay said growers have indicated they will have “far more capacity than is needed for the foreseeable future,” and warned that further expansion could “create an undue burden on already overwhelmed officials for effectively regulating this industry.

“For these reason, we ask lawmakers to proceed with caution, recognize that the for-profit marijuana industry will exploit loopholes, and to please keep treating marijuana as a dangerous drug that requires strict safeguards and controls,” said Fay.

Bradley’s bill, which was co-introduced by Sen. Dana Young, hasn’t received its committee assignments yet. But that doesn’t mean lawmakers won’t be talking about medical marijuana this week.

The House Health Quality subcommittee is scheduled to hear from several experts — including officials with the Florida Police Chiefs Association and Florida Sheriffs Association — during its meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday. While a companion to Bradley’s bill hasn’t been filed, House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues is expected to carry the House implementing bill.

Dana Young to unveil anti-fracking legislation next week

Tampa Republican state Senator Dana Young will announce her legislation to ban fracking next week, her office said on Friday.

During her successful campaign to win the Senate District 18 seat last fall, Young promised that she would introduce such a ban, after she was accused of actually supporting the controversial practice of extracting natural gas and oil during the 2016 legislative session.

Democrat Bob Buesing, independent candidate Joe Redner and other environmental groups all said her support of a bill sponsored by Naples Republican Garett Richter was an endorsement of fracking, but Young denied that, saying that she supported the the bill because it the best way to halt the practice, though it did not include an outright ban.

Young will not be the first member of the Senate to offer such a bill. Fort Lauderdale Democrat Gary Farmer introduced similar legislation in December.

Young intends to announce the details of her bill Tuesday morning in Tallahassee.

 

Florida Senate to consider Amendment 2 implementation bill

A bill filed Thursday in the Florida Senate, if passed, would expand the medical marijuana system in the Sunshine State, complying with 2016’s Amendment 2.

However, some critics — inside the Senate and outside as well — have raised concerns, suggesting the bill will not have the smoothest glide path.

Senate Bill 406, filed by Orange Park Republican Rob Bradley, would codify Amendment 2, establishing parameters for prescribing physicians, the treatment of minors, mandated yearly examinations for medical marijuana patients, and a requirement of a caregiver registry.

“In 2014, the Florida Legislature legalized low-THC medical marijuana, and in 2016 expanded the medical marijuana system to provide legal access to marijuana for terminally ill Floridians,” said Bradley in a press release Thursday.

“Floridians want even more options, speaking loud and clear at the polls in November by passing Amendment Two. This bill significantly expands the current medical marijuana system to give Floridians the relief they have demanded, and it does so safely and quickly,” Bradley added.

Sen. Dana Young, chair of the Senate Health Policy committee, is a co-introducer of the legislation. She also worked closely with Bradley on the bill.

“This bill faithfully honors our solemn obligation to the people of Florida to implement Amendment Two,” Young said. “Suffering Floridians will have now real options with no unreasonable delays.” The Health Policy Committee heard testimony from numerous Floridians at a recent committee meeting in Tallahassee.

The bill would amend language in Section 381.986 of Florida statute, changing the title to “Compassionate use of low-THC cannabis and marijuana.”

A definition of “medical cannabis” is stricken from the bill, replaced instead with a statement that “marijuana” means what it says in the Florida Constitution.”

“Medical use” of marijuana, in the language of the bill, does not include “possession, use, or administration of marijuana that was not purchased or acquired from an MMTC registered with the Department of Health.”

Qualifying doctors are allowed to prescribe medical cannabis and “a delivery device,” if they ascertain that a patient has a qualifying condition, and that the health benefits of cannabis use outweigh the risks.

To qualify, they will have to take a four hour course from the Florida Medical Association, or the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association.

Patients will be allowed a 90 day supply of marijuana, up from 45 in the previous statutory language.

Prescribing cannabis to non-qualified patients will be a misdemeanor of the first degree for prescribing doctors. That same penalty would be imposed on anyone who “fraudulently” claims the kind of debilitating condition that qualifies.

As well, qualified patients who smoke in public, on school grounds, in school buses or other vehicles also will be found guilty of that first degree misdemeanor.

The bill also has provisions for caregivers, who may help administer the cannabis to patients. Caregivers must be over 21 years of age, and must pass a level 2 screening unless related to the caregiver.

Additionally, a patient may have one caregiver at a time, outside of a hospice or nursing home setting.

The department, meanwhile, will register caregivers, physicians, and patients, and have rules set up by July 3, and a system up and running by Oct. 3. By that date, patient and caregiver identification cards will have been issued.

The bill also has provisions for expanding the industry.

Six months after the threshold of 250,000 patients is hit, five more Medical Marijuan Treatment Centers will be brought on line. The same will happen after 350,000 patients, 400,000 patients, and for every 100,000 patients thereafter.

Rules for processing and dispensing cannabis are also established in this bill.

Among them, that dosage info should be labeled with the recommended dose, and that no recreational-style delivery devices, such as bongs and rolling papers and the like, will be made available by the dispensing organization.

All transactions are to be cataloged and recorded, and MMTCs will have 24 hour video recording with archives kept for 45 days in controlled areas, ranging from grow and storage rooms to point of sale locations.

While the Bradley/Young nexus will be formidable, Sen. Jeff Brandes — an advocate of opening up the MMTC market to more providers — doesn’t think this bill goes far enough.

“I am encouraged that Senator Bradley’s proposal expands access to medical marijuana for more patients, and I am further encouraged that his proposal begins to chip away at the unnecessary regulatory hurdles burdening Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers. However, I believe the voters of Florida voiced their overwhelming support for a new approach to the regulation of medical marijuana in this state, not a revision to the existing framework,” Brandes said in a statement Thursday.

“I am continuing to work on what I believe is the most free-market option to address the implementation of Amendment 2. I look forward to releasing my proposal in the coming weeks and working with Senator Bradley as well as my fellow colleagues to implement the will of the Florida voters,” Brandes added.

Ben Pollara of United for Care also had some thoughts on the legislation.

“Senator Bradley’s bill is an encouraging start to the legislative process of implementing the medical marijuana amendment. His approach certainly stands in stark contrast to the proposed rule issued earlier this week by DOH by respecting the basic elements and language of the constitution,” Pollara noted.

“The two most important elements of implementation are respecting the sanctity and primacy of the doctor-patient relationship under the law,” Pollara added, “and diversifying and expanding the marketplace to best serve patient access.”

The caveats were inevitable, of course.

“Bradley’s bill does a mostly excellent job respecting the doctor-patient relationship. However, the bill doesn’t sufficiently expand the licensing of medical marijuana treatment centers to serve the estimated patient population, nor does the proposed expansion occur quickly enough to keep up with a patient population that will quickly boom across the state. It also leaves in place the current requirement of vertical integration that stifles innovation, diversity and ultimately patient access,” Pollara added.

Long story short? The future of medical marijuana in Florida is going to be robustly contested at least through this session.

Jack Latvala says he’ll support legislation banning fracking again in 2017 Session

State Sen. Jack Latvala opposed a bill to regulate the use of fracking in the 2016 Session, and in the upcoming Session, he’ll support legislation that would do so again.

“I’m where I was last year,” he said when asked about the controversial practice to extract natural gas and oil out of the ground.

“I helped beat it last year, so … I’m in the same place, and I’ll support a bill to ban it,” the Clearwater Republican said while exiting Sunlake High School in Land O’Lakes after a long afternoon hearing from the public at the Pasco County Legislative Delegation meeting.

Last year, Naples Republican Garett Richter‘s bill died in the Senate Appropriations Committee. It would have directed the Department of Environmental Protection to set up a regulatory scheme for onshore oil and gas drilling, provide $1 million to study the impact of fracking on Florida’s aquifer and unique limestone bedrock, as well as pre-empt local government ordinances seeking to ban the practice.

“We saw the issue of banning fracking come up in many races in the past election,” said Michelle Allen, the Florida organizer with Food and Water Watch. “And we believe it’s going to continue to come up until we pass a statewide ban on it.”

Allen addressed the issue Wednesday before the six-person body.

The issue was certainly hot last fall in the three-way Senate District 18 race in Hillsborough County between Republican Dana Young, Democrat Bob Buesing and independent Joe Redner.

Young was dogged by environmental groups (as well as her two opponents) of being pro-fracking by supporting the Richter bill; she insisted it was, in fact, a vote to ban the practice.

Immediately after winning the race, Young announced she would be proposing a bill in the 2017 Session to ban fracking.

The number of local governments in Florida that passed resolutions or ordinances denouncing fracking in Florida is now up to 89, Allen said.

“Floridians do not want fracking,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director with Environment Florida. “Over 75 percent of Floridians live in a city or county that has passed a resolution or an ordinance opposing fracking. That includes Dade City and Zephyrhills here in Pasco County, and Tampa, St. Pete and Pinellas County as a whole.”

Rubiello added that the Legislature shouldn’t vote for more studies. They were “a waste of time, money and energy, even when they’re attached to a true ban,” she said.

In a report released last month, the federal Environmental Protection Agency concluded that, in some circumstances, hydraulic fracturing has contaminated drinking water.

The report came just as President-elect Donald Trump vowed to expand fracking and roll back existing regulations on the process.

(An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that Latvala was chair of the Appropriations Committee last year. He did not take over those duties until this fall.)

Jeff Brandes’ legislation would reform why state suspends driver’s licenses

Republican state Senator Jeff Brandes is once again filing a bill that would prevent Floridians from having their driver’s licenses suspended for a reason unrelated to a driving violation.

The legislation would reduce the number of offenses for which license suspension is prescribed and prohibit suspensions for those who show in court an inability to pay fines and fees.

Brandes introduced a similar bill during last year’s session that didn’t make its way out of the the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said he did so after reading reports showing that more than 1.2 million driver’s license suspensions occur annually in Florida.

A study conducted in 2014 said that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles suspended 1.3 million driver’s licenses in fiscal year 2012-13, and 167,000 were for non-driving reasons, such as failure to pay fines or court fees or child support.

An August, 2015 report in the Miami Herald found that 77 percent of all license suspensions in Florida between 2012 and 2015 occurred because of a failure to pay fees.

A similar bill was proposed in the ouse last year by St. Petersburg Democrat Daryl Rouson and was co-sponsored by Republicans Dana Young from Tampa and Sarasota’s Greg Steube. All three of those members have moved on to the Senate this year, presupposing there could be support for the bill there.

The bill will likely have a negative impact on local tax collectors and clerks of court who retain a portion of revenues from certain driver’s license sanctions when issuing reinstatements, in addition to other fees retained by them associated with license suspensions and revocations. That was an issue with the bill last year.

Blaise Ingoglia touts support from state senators in Florida GOP chair re-election bid

Nearly a dozen state senators are throwing their support behind Blaise Ingoglia’s bid to keep his job as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

The Spring Hill Republican announced Wednesday the support of 10 state senators, including former Majority Leader Bill Galvano and former House Majority Leader and newly elected Sen. Dana Young.

“Over this past election cycle, there has been a lot of rhetoric from the Florida Democrat Party, the media and those who wanted the grassroots to fail, by trying to give the appearance that the Republican Party of Florida and the Florida Senate have not been unified in our shared goals,” said Ingoglia, the current chairman of the Florida GOP and a state representative “Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that I, as well as the RPOF, have a great working relationship with our Florida Senators and their leadership. Florida Senators have attended all our major events, donated and helped raise money to help us succeed.”

In an email to state executive committee members, Ingoglia said he was committed to working “collaboratively with the Florida Senate, the Florida House, our Congressional delegation, the Governor and the cabinet to advance our shared goals of making Florida the best state in the nation.”

Aside from Galvano and Young, Ingoglia was endorsed by:

— Sen. Kelli Stargel

— Sen. Rob Bradley

— Sen. Frank Artiles

— Sen. Dennis Baxley

— Sen. Travis Hutson

— Sen. Debbie Mayfield

— Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, and

— Sen. Greg Steube.

Ingoglia was elected chairman in 2015, after Republican activists rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked chairman. He previously served as the vice chairman on the state party.

Ingoglia will face Christian Ziegler, a Sarasota Republican committeeman, in the race to serve as the RPOF chair.

Ziegler, 33, announced his candidacy in November.

Dana Young, Chris Sprowls named to GOPAC advisory board

State Sen. Dana Young of Tampa and state Rep. Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor have been named to GOPAC‘s 2017 Legislative Leaders Advisory Board.

“With Republican dominance at the federal and state levels of government, we must deliver solutions to Americans’ top concerns for economic and personal security,” GOPAC Chairman David Avella said in a statement Monday.

Sprowls

“Our Legislative Leaders Advisory Board members are integral to accomplishing this by sharing their ideas and trading best practices with elected leaders throughout the country,” he said. “Further, our Advisory Board is instrumental in our success at building a healthy roster of prepared leaders ready to lead in their state legislatures and/or run for higher office.”

Young, elected to the Senate this year, was most recently House Republican Leader. She chairs the Senate’s Health Policy committee. Sprowls, in the House since 2014, now chairs its Judiciary committee. Young and Sprowls, both lawyers, will serve a one-year term.

The full list of members, as provided, is below:

State Senate Members
Republican Nominee for Lt. Governor & Speaker Randy McNally (TN)
President Jack Whitver (IA)
President Pro Tempore David Shafer (GA)
President Pro Tempore Bob Peterson (OH)
Majority Leader Greg Reed (AL)
Majority Leader Kimberly Yee (AZ)
Majority Leader Brandt Hershman (IN)
Majority Leader Damon Thayer (KY)
Majority Leader Garrett Mason (ME)
Majority Leader Shane Massey (SC)
Majority Leader Ryan Ferns (WV)
Assistant Majority Leader Jeremy Miller (MN)
Assistant Majority Leader Leah Vukmir (WI)
Minority Whip Steve Hershey (MD)
Finance Committee Chair Catharine Young (NY)
Appropriations Committee Chair Kim David (OK)
Health Care Policy Committee Chair Dana Young (FL)
Health and Human Services Committee Chair Charles Schwertner (TX)
Rules Committee Chair Deidre Henderson (UT)
Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee Chair Bryce Reeves (VA)

State House / Assembly Members
Speaker Tom Leonard (MI)
Speaker Philip Gunn (MS)
Speaker Tim Moore (NC)
Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (OH)
Speaker Charles McCall (OK)
Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August (WI)
Majority Leader Mathew Pitsch (AR)
Majority Whip Jackson Miller (VA)
Assistant Republican Leader Melissa Melendez (CA)
Assistant Majority Whip Wendy McNamara (IN)
Judiciary Committee Chair Chris Sprowls (FL)
Representative Bruce Bannister (SC)

Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission likely doomed after local delegation approves bill to kill it

The troubled Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission received a terminal diagnosis Friday after members of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation voted unanimously for a local bill that would eliminate the agency on December 31, 2017.

After that, the County Commission would pick up its regulatory duties.

“The public has lost complete faith in the ability of this agency to regulate credibly, equitably and efficiently,” said bill sponsor James Grant said before the entire delegation vote in support of his bill.

The proposal was similar to a previous bill Grant brought to the local delegation in 2013 that sought to put a stake through the heart of the agency, but with a significant difference.

The local bill approved on Friday gives the county and the PTC a full year to contend with the transition.

“It’s not about moving fast. We want to make sure we avoid any unintended consequences,” Grant said. That was in notable contrast to the 2013 version, which would have killed the agency immediately, making it a bridge too far for other legislators to support, even with noted PTC critics like Dana Young

“I think the plan is to subcontract the regulation out to Uber, isn’t it?” asked Brandon Senator Tom Lee, eliciting the largest round of laughter of the morning.

Although meant for humorous effect, there’s no question that the addition of Uber and Lyft into the county ultimately was the beginning of the end for the PTC, which was already burdened with a toxic reputation well before the emergence of ride-sharing in Hillsborough County.

Among the previous lowlights that had saddled the PTC came in 2010, when Cesar Padilla, then the executive director of the agency, resigned after it was reported that he had been moonlighting as a security guard.

There was also the case of former County Commissioner Kevin White, was busted in 2008 for taking bribes for helping tow company operators to get permits in his role as PTC chair. White ended up serving three years at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta.

The PTC caught the attention of lawmakers like Grant and Jeff Brandes after the PTC went after Uber when it introduced its Uber Black limo service during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. The PTC shut that effort down quickly.

Those lawmakers became incredibly irritated with the PTC and its (now former) chairman Victor Crist over the past few years, as Uber and Lyft refused to comply with PTC regulations. That led to PTC agents citing those drivers, leading to court actions and more than two years of fighting before an agreement bringing both companies into compliance occurred last month.

At Friday’s meeting, County Commission Chairman Stacy White said, “the county stands prepared to take over regulation of this industry and create a meaningful regulatory framework.”

“I think that those types of things would be able to be implemented by the county with relative ease,” White said. “We do stand prepared to create a lean, regulatory framework.”

The PTC has been funded by fees paid by the taxicab and limousine companies, not directly by taxpayers. Plant City Republican Representative Dan Raulerson asked White if the county would continue to fund their regulatory efforts in the same fashion.

“We certainly do have the ability to charge various permitting fees to offset the costs of the regulatory process,” White said.

“It seems like a good move in broadening out transportation options,” added recently elected Commissioner Pat Kemp.  

“I support it, and I realize that there are 66 other counties in the state of Florida that have figured out how to do this,” said Tea Party activist Sharon Calvert. “Let’s get it done.”

TBX critics not surprised by FDOT Secretary’s stance on the project

Following Florida Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Boxold’s comments this week that it’s time for a “reset” on the controversial Tampa Bay Express toll lanes project, an opposition group says it’s time to remove the project from Hillsborough County Metropolitan Organization’s five year plan.

“We are not surprised that FDOT has realized how tarnished and damaged the TBX brand is- the project is too costly and does not solve congestion or meet transportation needs,” says Michelle Cookson, a spokesperson for Sunshine Citizens, the citizen activist group formed to oppose the Tampa Bay Express project in 2005.

Cookson was reacting specifically to Boxold’s statements to the Florida Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday, where he said, “We have had some challenges with getting that project to a point where the local communities that are affected are pleased with where it is, and so we have the benefit of some time before we’re ready to move forward with that project,” Boxhold said.“We probably have 2-3 years before that project is what we call ‘production ready,’ ready to turn dirt,” adding, “and so we’re going to sort of hit the reset button, bring in additional staff or different staff to manage that project, and work more intensively with the local communities.”

The comments were the first by the FDOT in months regarding the project, which last came before the public in June, when the Hillsborough MPO board approved including the project in the agency’s five-year transportation improvement plan.

The TBX project is the biggest public works project in the history of the Tampa Bay area. The plan would ultimately remake I-275, I-4 and I-75, and bring new toll lanes from Pasco County south to Manatee County and from Pinellas County east to Polk County.

Critics contend that the plan would negatively impact a low-income and minority concentrated area of Tampa, who had little input on what was happening in their neighborhood, something that Boxold said on Tuesday he is well aware of.

Other critics say that the plan is foolhardy and won’t decrease traffic congestion.

However, some of Tampa’s biggest political players, such as Mayor Bob Buckhorn, state Senator Dana Young and much of the business establishment is solidly behind the plan.

Here is the statement in full from Sunshine Citizens:

Upon reading Florida Politics’ coverage of FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold’s comments to a Florida Senate committee, “FDOT Secretary says it’s time to hit reset button on TBX project,” we are not surprised that FDOT has realized how tarnished and damaged the TBX brand is- the project is too costly and does not solve congestion or meet transportation needs.

Sunshine Citizens’ emphasis in our long-term plan has always been on what comprehensive transportation could this region have for $6 billion – instead of $2 per mile tolls on the highways?

The only action FDOT can take to satisfy community concerns about TBX is to remove TBX from the 5-year work plan and commit to funding a Citizen-led regional transportation outreach effort that runs in conjunction with the premium transit study.

It is imperative that FDOT commit to funding Citizen-led participation in shaping a regional transportation plan that serves ALL of the community – because this is $6-9 billion of our taxpayer money they are talking about using. This outreach must be led by the citizens and include large, diverse groups of people from all over the county, with their input first, not a pre- conceived outcome shaping the dialogue.

We have always questioned the rush to fund this project which has been shown to be so tremendously flawed. Our current actions include petitioning FDOT to remove TBX from the 5- year work plan and continued demands of the Hillsborough MPO to remove TBX from the TIP.

In conjunction with our coalition partners, our next major actions include attendance at the Hillsborough Legislative Delegation Meeting*, Friday, December 16, and then action plans in Tallahassee in 2017.
*Event information at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/586138868243288/

Sunshine Citizens remain committed to public education, grassroots activism and growing our coalition of business and community organizations that favor investment in infrastructure, to include multimodal comprehensive transportation, that generates greater return on investment without eviscerating communities.

It’s time to move Beyond TBX and position this region for economic growth and prosperity while meeting the community’s transportation needs.

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