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Government Digest: Mar. 25

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  • | 2:31 p.m. March 25, 2011
  • Florida
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Buckhorn defeats Ferlita for mayor

TAMPA — Voters chose public affairs consultant Bob Buckhorn by a wider margin than anticipated in a March 22 runoff election for mayor. Buckhorn defeated former Hillsborough County Commission Chairwoman Rose Ferlita with 63% of the vote. A former city councilman and special assistant to former Mayor Sandy Freedman in the 1980s and'‰'90s, Buckhorn takes office April 1 replacing Mayor Pam Iorio. The four city council seats on the ballot were won by Yvonne Yolie Capin, Harry Cohen, Lisa Montelione, and Mike Suarez.

Iorio, who reached her term limit after serving eight years as mayor, endorsed Buckhorn. Buckhorn campaigned on a plan to restructure city government without increasing the operating budget. He aims to create a new deputy mayor position to change the city's business regulations and improve economic development programs. Fire and police unions supported Buckhorn, who also plans to reform the pension system and review employee payroll and benefits.

'Project Change-Up' receives incentive grant

SARASOTA COUNTY — County commissioners approved a $150,000 grant request from a company code-named Project Change-Up that will allow the company to add at least 15 jobs over the next five years. The economic development incentive grant will assist in the expansion of the company's operations in the county. According to a county news release, the new jobs will be “highly technical” and have a projected average wage of more than $55,000.

Impact fee legal standard may change

TALLAHASSEE — Local governments would have a tougher time defending impact fees charged on development projects if a new standard of review by the courts is reenacted into law. In identical House and Senate bills, for any action challenging an impact fee, the government would have the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence — meaning a greater weight of the evidence — that the fee meets legal requirements. In the past, courts have held local governments to an easier-to-meet “fairly debatable” standard that the Florida Supreme Court rephrased as a “reasonableness test.” Business interests claim that this test makes it nearly impossible to prove that an impact fee is excessive.

House Bill 7021 is sponsored by Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, and the House Community and Military Affairs Committee. Senate Bill 410 is sponsored by Sen. President pro-tempore Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton. The bills reenact a law adopted in 2009 that was challenged last year by nine counties and three local government associations. The bills, which are headed to the respective House and Senate floors, aim to make the challenge moot in part by providing a legislative finding of an important state interest.

Committees OK commercial insurance exemptions

TALLAHASSEE — The House Economic Affairs Committee approved a bill March 17 exempting five new types of commercial insurance from the state's rate filing and approval process. The committee substitute for House Bill 99 exempts fiduciary liability, general liability, nonresidential property, nonresidential multiperil and excess property lines of insurance from review by the Office of Insurance Regulation. The bill also expands the current rate filing and approval exemption for commercial motor vehicle insurance from fleets of 20 or more vehicles to fleets of any size. A similar bill in the Senate, a committee substitute for SB 178, has passed two committees.

Committee passes growth management reform bill

TALLAHASSEE — A Florida House committee passed a 300-page rewrite of the state's growth management laws March 17 that streamlines the development approval process by taking the state out of much of the comprehensive plan review process.

Former secretary of the department of community affairs, Linda Shelley, calls it “ ... the largest change in the growth management law since we enacted it in 1985.”

The proposed committee bill, PCB 11-04, eliminates the controversial state concurrency requirements, giving local governments the option to retain the standards. Shelley says the Senate version doesn't include that provision.

Concurrency laws generally require developers to have roads, parks, utilities and other infrastructure in place by the time they obtain final permits.

Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, chairman of the House Community and Military Affairs Subcommittee, sponsored the legislation.

The bill passed 11-4 with support of four Gulf Coast legislators: Rep. Matthew Caldwell, R-Fort Myers, Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa.

“This bill reduces state regulation of local government comprehensive planning,” Workman told his committee. “Florida growth management laws have evolved into prescriptive, burdensome, and costly regulations on local governments and property owners.”



The executive committee of the Horizon Council, a public-private advisory board to the county commission on economic development issues, meets at 8 a.m. Friday, April 1, at the county economic development office, 12800 University Drive, suite 325, Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-338-3161.


The Council of Governments will hold its annual meeting at 11 a.m., Thursday, March 31, in the conference rooms on the 26th floor of County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. The council is composed of elected officials from each jurisdiction in Hillsborough County, including the county government, the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace, and Plant City, and the school district. For more information, contact Edith Stewart, public affairs administrator at 813-276-2640.


The Planning and Growth Management Department is holding a series of workshops for community input on the future of the West Market Area, the coastal and inland areas along U.S. 19 and Little Road corridors between Pinellas and Hernando counties. The first of four workshops is 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, March 28, at Gulf Trace Elementary School, 3303 Gulf Trace Blvd., Holiday. Future workshops are scheduled for April 5, 19 and 25 at other school locations. For more information, go to or call Carol Clarke at 727-847-8193, Ext. 8419.


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