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Business Observer Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009 10 years ago

Government Digest 12/18/09

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A look at governmental action from around the Gulf Coast.
by: Jay Brady Government Editor

Chamber opposes CFPA
WASHINGTON D.C. — The proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency is in the crosshairs of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The chamber is putting on a full press with television ads and a new Web site dedicated to stopping the legislation that would create the new government agency.

According to information on the Web site, www.StopTheCFPA.com, “The Obama Administration has proposed, and the House is moving forward on, legislation to create a massive new government agency to regulate consumer financial products.

“This new agency ... would have unprecedented powers and authority to determine the types of financial products consumers can choose from. In fact, the bill extends far beyond traditional financial services products to a vast majority of the economy — in short creating a new regulatory overlay over the entire business community.”

The chamber supports more effective consumer protection that is centered on ensuring consumers have access to clear and concise disclosures about risks posed by financial products, and on weeding out the fraudulent and predatory actors.”

Rail bill passes
TALLAHASSEE — By a vote of 27-10, the Florida Senate approved House Bill 1-B creating the Florida Rail Enterprise, modeled after the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, to coordinate the development and operation of passenger rail services statewide, including high-speed rail. Gov. Charlie Crist, an avid supporter of the bill, has until Dec. 24 to sign the legislation previously approved 84-25 by the Florida House. The bill creates dedicated funding sources for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which operates Tri-Rail, and for future passenger rail development and operations.

Bond ratings issued
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY — Three international credit rating agencies, Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings, and Moody's Investors Service have issued credit ratings of AAA, AA+ and Aa1, respectively, for the county's proposed new environmental bonds. The bonds will be used for acquisition and preservation of environmentally sensitive lands in the county. Standard & Poor's affirmed the County's AAA general credit rating and Fitch Ratings affirmed the existing “A” rating for the county's solid waste and resource revenue bonds.

Standard & Poor's rating of “AAA” is the highest possible rating on S&P's rating scale. This AAA rating was assigned to the county's new environmental general obligation bond issue that was approved by the county commission Dec. 2. In addition, S&P affirmed that it will continue to assign a AAA rating to the county's previously issued parks and recreation general obligation bond issue.

Castor a missing signer
TAMPA — Democrats and Republicans in Florida's Congressional delegation spoke out recently with a united, but not unanimous voice regarding the new water rules proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for Florida waterways.

Critics claim the rules are inflexible and not cost-effective. The rules set quantitative nutrient standards to replace the state's longstanding narrative standards advocated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Agricultural Commissioner Charles Bronson.

In a joint letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, a bipartisan group of 25 elected officials representing Florida in Congress declared that the proposed rule will have a widespread effect on Florida's industry and economy, and all concerned parties should be heard. The letter noted that Florida will be the first state subject to such federal water mandates, and said that, “While we all value the health of our waterways, this regulatory change will also have economic impacts on the state, and thus it is important that the standards are based on the best available science.”

The letter was signed by all but two members of the Florida Congressional Delegation. Missing from the list was U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa. A call to her district office asking her to comment was not returned. The release of the Congressional letter follows the release of a study conducted by Carollo Engineers and commissioned by the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council. The study estimated the cost of upgrading Florida's water infrastructure to meet the proposed EPA requirements would range from $24.4 billion to $50.7 billion. FWEA has released the study and made its methodology available for public review. For more information, go to www.DontTaxFlorida.com.

Enterprise zone expands
SARASOTA — The Enterprise Zone in North Sarasota has been expanded by the state. A total of 91 commercial properties were added, extending it by one-tenth of a mile. Commercial properties on the east and west sides of N. Tamiami Trail are now included in the zone as well as properties north of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way corridor.

MEETINGS

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY
The Metropolitan Planning Organization policy committee meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22, in the planning commission boardroom, 18th floor, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. For more information call Linda Ferraro at (813) 272-5940 or email to [email protected].

COLLIER COUNTY
The Pelican Bay Services Division Advisory Board joint workshop meeting is at 2 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21 at the community center at Pelican Bay, 8960 Hammock Oak Drive, Naples.

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