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House bill could transfer millions from FHP to Pinellas, Polk sheriffs

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

The Florida Highway Patrol came out against a proposed committee bill Wednesday that would hand over agency funding and jurisdiction in two counties.

CRJ 17-01 from the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee could give the Pinellas County and Polk County sheriff’s offices a combined $6 million to handle crashes on state roads within county borders.

FHP Lt. Col. Mike Thomas said the move “would be a stark change to our business model” and that FHP hasn’t “had the chance to really evaluate any of the fiscal impacts as well as the impacts on the public.”

FHP has jurisdiction to investigate crashes on state roads in many Florida counties, though sheriffs say they end up doing a lot of the heavy lifting because FHP doesn’t have the boots on the ground to handle the case load.

“We’re already doing it,” Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said in an interview with the Times/Herald. “I believe we can do it faster, better, cheaper.” He added: “The citizen doesn’t understand why the guy in the green uniform goes by five times while they’re sitting there waiting for the guy in the brown uniform.”

Under the bill, FHP would be required to enter into a contract with the Pinellas and Polk sheriff’s offices if  requested, while the sheriff’s offices would be required to employ displaced FHP troopers unless they decide to transfer locations or leave to pursue another job.

The bill also requires payments to the sheriff’s offices to be less than the cost of having FHP do the work. The cap for Pinellas County is $2.8 million a year, while the cap in Polk is set at $3.2 million.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

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