In the name of creating jobs, a near-reversal of the state? 25-year-old growth management law is only one signature away from becoming law, reports Lilly Rockwell of the News Service of Florida. Both the House and Senate approved a bill Friday (HB 7207) in predominantly party-line votes that reduces state oversight over local land planning decisions, giving cities and counties far greater control over approval of new developments. It also eliminates a state law mandating that developers help pay for new roads, schools and parks. It is likely to be signed by Gov. Rick Scott, who ran on a campaign of creating jobs in part by reducing bureaucratic red tape. He has called the state agency in charge of reviewing development plans a ?ob-killer.? ?e are trying to give local governments as much leeway as we possibly can,?said Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, the Senate sponsor of the proposal. ?he local governments have been screaming and hollering to ?ive us back control of our communities.?How could Tallahassee possibly know what is good for downtown Bradenton??Bennett said. Supporters argue that the state oversight provided by the Department of Community Affairs is no longer needed because cities and counties have bolstered their own planning departments. Indeed, in a separate budget deal the land planning department is nearly eliminated, merged into a new entity called the Department of Economic Opportunity, and likely downsized from its current form. Environmental groups say the overhaul of the state? growth management law will create unchecked sprawl and congestion, rolling back progress made on land planning over the last two dozen years. Worst of all, they say, it won? create jobs. ?t the end of the day this is not going to generate new economic activity,?said Janet Bowman, with the Florida chapter of the Nature Conservancy. ?f anything, I think you have to worry about the quality of life effect on relaxing growth management.? Lawmakers complained about the procedure used to pass the growth management bill. Two weeks ago the House passed its version (HB 7129) of the growth management overhaul. Then, a different version of the proposal was tacked on to an unrelated budget conforming bill last week, with supporters saying it was the result of a House and Senate compromise. As a way to duck complaints that the Senate had not voted on the measure, the Senate did take up the growth management bill on Thursday and Friday, ultimately voting out a version similar to the conforming bill. Democratic lawmakers loudly complained about the way the legislation was shoved through the budget process and hurriedly passed in the last two days of session. ?his should not be done, this is a violation of the budget conforming process,?said House Minority Leader Ron Saunders, D-Key West. Republicans defended the procedures, saying each chamber had a chance to vet and vote on the bill. Meanwhile, Democrats criticized the measure as giving too much control to local governments who will be easily tempted to approve new developments and may pass the cost of infrastructure improvements on to residents. ?t won? be long before you see local governments succumb to the developers in their local community and start approving developments that are not smart,?said Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando. This session has been particularly tough for environmentalists, with Republican super-majorities in the House and Senate that largely believe many environmental protections get in the way of jobs. ?ou are going to see less protection of land and water resources, more conversion of rural lands, sprawl and, really, a higher cost to the taxpayer for infrastructure because there is less assurance local governments will be charging developers for the cost of their impact on roads,?Bowman said. Bill sponsor Ritch Workman, a Republican from Melbourne, said he has gotten ?ate mail?from environmentalists, developers, cities and counties and state officials related to the bill. ?obody is perfectly happy with this bill,?Workman said. ?hat means we did the right thing.?]>
Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.