We recently alerted you to the bills filed by Senator Wilton Simpson (SB 484) and Representative Debbie Mayfield (HB 873). These bills as filed would have eliminated Regional Planning Councils. The 11 Florida Regional Planning Councils receive millions of dollars of federal government grants to promote “Smart Growth” and “Sustainable Living” growth management plans. “Smart Growth” plans (such as 7/50 in south Florida) have the possibility of stripping away our property rights as the plans push for higher density urban centers. This would move towards giving up our cars for the use of bikes, transit or walk to work and shop.
Regional Planning Councils comprise a fourth layer of government between the local city /county and the state government. This new layer of government diminishes the local control and authority of city and county governments for self-government through “home rule” as provided for in the Florida Constitution. The whole point of local control and self-governance is that local elected representatives can be held accountable by the voter-Taxpayer.
We knew this would be a tough fight, many special interests have been taking large amounts of federal grant money through these regional planning councils for years and would not want to see it go away. Typically legislation is debated through committees and the special interest groups will always try to pressure legislators to accept amendments to weaken the bill through the various committee stops.
What did shock us is that Senator Wilton Simpson amended and weakened his own bill before the it was even heard in its first committee stop, for which he serves as the Chairman. Senator Simpson filed what is known as “Strike-All” amendment to his own bill. A “Strike-All” amendment actually strikes all of the current language of a bill and inserts completely new language. The new Regional Planning Council bill by Senator Simpson not only does not eliminate Regional Planning Councils, but Senator Simpson guarantees $2.5 million for Regional Planning Councils for this next year’s budget.
Senator Simpson’s new bill does eliminate one of the 11 Regional Planning Councils (Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council) and moves those Counties to other existing Councils.
Senator Simpson’s new bill also deletes some of the current statutorily-required duties of Regional Planning Councils, such as holding public meetings on matters associated with electrical power plants or presenting any reports on the impact of a proposed electric power plant, and power companies installing transmission lines. Also, under this new bill, Regional Planning Councils cannot report on the impact of a proposed natural gas transmission pipeline. I would have to imagine electrical power companies like Duke Energy and FP&L are happy to get relief from the Regional Planning Councils, but you and I did not receive any relief from the destruction of our private property rights being perpetrated by Regional Planning Councils.
Representative Debbie Mayfield was disappointed that we couldn’t even have a debate in committee on why we need to eliminate Regional Planning Councils. Under current law, all Florida Counties must be a member of a Regional Planning Council and are required to pay dues that come out of your taxes. Representative Mayfield will be offering an amendment to allow Counties to opt-out of Regional Planning Councils, for which she is already taking heat for from the special interest lobbyist for even suggesting this amendment. At least Representative Mayfield is willing to fight for us and not the mega-wealthy special interest groups.
This new bill by Senator Simpson smacks of the typical crony capitalism that we all are sick and tired of. We couldn’t even get Senator Simpson to stand strong for us even in one committee, and his committee at that.
1. We need to call Senator Simpson and let him know how disappointed we are that he caved to special interest groups with his “Strike-All” Amendment to SB 484 and tell him to change it back to protecting our property rights and not the special interest groups feeding off our tax money.
2. The new bill will now go to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development. Please call the Senators that sit on this committee and tell them to change SB 484 back to the original language, tell them you are not happy with Senator Simpson’s “Strike-All” amendment in the Senate Community Affairs Committee and you demand the elimination of Regional Planning Councils. Tell them that you are tired of an unelected council bypassing local government authority and pushing a one-size-fits-all growth management plan using our tax dollars.