Bennett,Split,Refile,Part,Growth,Mgmt,Bill

By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida
By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Nov. 8, 2010 --

A massive 2009 legislative overhaul of the growth management laws that’s been tied up in court may be re-written in the coming year as separate pieces of legislation, a leading Senate critic of the state’s growth laws said Wednesday.

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, chairman of the Senate Community Affairs Committee, said Wednesday he plans to file at least three measures to reinstate portions of a 2009 law that would relax requirements for development in urban areas.

In August, Second Circuit Chief Judge Charles Francis, declared the 2009 measure, SB 360, unconstitutional and ordered the law off the books. Francis ruled it was an unfunded mandate passed in violation of a 1991 statute aimed at protecting local governments from footing the bill for legislative actions.

But with Republicans having increased their majorities in both chambers to more than two-thirds, the Legislature could now pass new growth management changes, even if they cost local governments money without paying for those changes. Since 1991, Florida law has required the Legislature to pay for significant new mandates on local governments unless they’re supported by two-thirds of members in each chamber.

Some elements that were contained in the bill need to be brought up again, and rather than bog them down with a large overhauling piece of legislation they could be passed by themselves, Bennett said.

“I don’t think we’re ramming anything through,” Bennett said Wednesday. “I think we are breaking (the bill) up into single, significant issues.”

Bennett plans to file separate proposals on affordable housing, security camera requirements and how the state determines whether a mandate is unfunded. That last issue scuttled the Legislature’s most recent attempt at growth management changes.

In his ruling, Francis said the 2009 law would at a minimum require nearly 250 cities to submit comprehensive plan amendments to comply with the law at a cost to each of $15,000, or roughly $3.7 million statewide. Cities and counties said complying with the new law would cost them significantly more. Under the unfunded mandate prohibition, such a significant cost could not be left on loal government’s shoulders, Francis ruled.

Bennett said one of the bills he plans to file would more clearly delineate what constitutes a significant cost.

Backers of SB 360, a coalition of business groups and developers, said the bill would encourage development in the urban areas by making it less expensive for private developers, who would otherwise focus on less densely populated areas and contribute further to urban sprawl.

Critics say the measure would simply transfer costs that would have been paid by developers to local governments that would be forced to pay for the roads and other public projects the growth would require.

Other issues included in the 2009 bill, namely the imposition of mobility fees and allowing local governments more time to adjust to the new rules, can be dealt with in separate bills, Bennett said.


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