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Small County Coalition
of Florida

1118-B Thomasville Road
Tallahassee, FL  32303
850-224-3180

 

The Small County Coalition
Legislative Program for 2007

Introduction
 
The Small County Coalition is a statewide alliance of county commissions from small and rural counties.

The Small County Coalition’s primary mission is to help Florida’s small and rural counties address legislative issues from a small county/rural perspective and work effectively with state agencies leadership.

The Small County Coalition believes in the importance of a state rural policy that protects the character of our small and rural areas; promotes economic development; and, maintains and promotes the viability of existing small county economies such as agriculture and eco-tourism.

The Small County Coalition supports programs that improve the financial viability and fiscal capacity of Florida’s local governments in small counties.

The Small County Coalition supports programs that help provide services to Floridians who reside in small counties; Floridians who visit their communities for enjoyment; and, Visitors from outside the state who travel through small counties in route to destinations in and out of Florida.

The Small County Coalition is hopeful that the Florida Legislature will use the following suggestions to guide their actions relating to small and rural areas:

• Protect existing state aid and agency grant programs
• Protect and Maintain revenue sharing
• Protect and promote the Small County assets
• Promote flexibility, and provide technical assistance
• Protect existing local revenue opportunities
• Provide additional local revenue options

The Small County Coalition submits the following Legislative Priorities, and Policy Proposals for consideration by the Governor, Cabinet Members, Members of the Florida Legislature, the Leadership within State Agencies and, other local, state, and federal interests that might be supportive of Florida’s small and rural communities. Priorities to Guide the 2006 Legislative Session The Florida Legislature is requested to support the following Small County Coalition priorities:

Protect Fiscally Constrained Revenue Sharing
• Protect the newly established Fiscally Constrained Revenue Sharing Program - Ensure a “No Harm” standard in any effort to change the funding source or the criteria for the Fiscally Constrained Program.

Establish “Critical Projects Construction” Program
• Create a program to assist local governments demonstrating limited fiscal conditions with the construction of local projects such local jails, fire stations, hospitals, courthouses, libraries, or other critical county facilities. The program should be similar to “Special Facilities Construction Account Program” that enables the construction of schools in counties with insufficient local property tax capacity. The program would be funded with non-recurring general revenue, and be matched with local revenues.

Increase Support For Rural Health Care
• Increase funding for County Health Departments and Health Centers targeting the needs of low income and uninsured clients.
• Increase funding for the Transportation Disadvantage program. • Provide increased funding for renovations, expansion and/or new construction local health infrastructure.
• Create program to create “internship opportunities” and other approaches to recruit physicians and medical personnel to rural areas.
• Create an “Equalization or Sparsity” component within funding mechanisms for local health care programs.

Oppose “One Size Fits All” Approaches to addressing Property Tax and/or Local Spending
• Identify and address significant and/or disproportionate impacts that proposed changes to existing Property Tax statutes would have on small counties.
• Provide flexibility through exemptions, waivers, and other approaches within any statewide legislation proposed to limit or cap local spending authority or create additional property tax limitations to ensure that Fiscally Constrained counties; counties with identifiable infrastructure deficits as measured by SB 360 requirements; and/or counties below statewide average per capita spending patterns for key services can meet local service needs.

Continue and Enhance Program Funding
• Promote continuation funding for programs that target small county services and economic development.
• Provide “Inflation” increases in funding appropriated for programs that have are not internally adjusted with formula increases.
• Ensure funding formula components that address limited in fiscal capacity or “economy of scale” considerations t such as base funding, set aside funds, and/or equalization funding.

Property Insurance
• Reduce property and casualty insurance rates.

GENERAL GOVERNMENT AND FISCAL POLICY PROPOSALS

Cost Shifts and Increasing Costs
• Oppose the shifting of program costs to the local level.
• Oppose legislation that shifts administrative or un-funded responsibilities to local governments.
• The Small County Coalition requests that the Florida Legislature appropriate funding to offset the cost of any fund shifts on Florida’s fiscally constrained small counties.
• Continue allocating funding to offset the impact of the Department of Juvenile Justice pre-trial detention costs shift on fiscally constrained counties.

Revenue Sharing
• Evaluate State and Local Revenue Sharing Programs to enhance funding to small counties that evidence fiscal hardships, rely heavily of local ad valorem, and/or demonstrate conditions of limited revenue capacity.
• Provide additional funding to local governments that demonstrate significant reliance on local property tax or have a high % of local property exempt from the tax roll.

Fiscally Constrained Counties
• Protect the newly established Fiscally Constrained Revenue Sharing Program - Ensure a “No Harm” standard in any effort to change the funding source or the criteria for the Fiscally Constrained Program.

Impact Fees
• Impact fees should continue to be authorized through local home rule authority guided by local conditions, such as, growth rates, infrastructure needs and fiscal capacity of the local community.

Health Care
• Implement steps to limit health care costs on local governments
• Continue state funding to reimburse county Health Departments that provide primary care and/or dental services in rural areas.
• Increase funding to meet health-related transportation needs of indigent and disadvantaged populations.
• Cap or limit county responsibility for inpatient hospital costs and nursing home cost share.

Small County Courts
• Provide continued funding to support Small County Courthouse Renovation and Construction Projects.
• Ensure that small counties and rural areas have sufficient resources for the operation of Florida’s court system.

Small County Jails
• Provide funding to assist in expansion and construction of local jail facilities in small counties that are experiencing overcrowding resulting from incarceration of state parole violations.

Parks and Recreation
• Fully fund projects recommended within the FRDAP program.
• Provide special project funding for local recreation infrastructure.

Small County Technical Assistance Program
• Restore the funding level for the SCTAS program to $500,000.

Small County Libraries
• Support increase in state aide funding.
• Protect equalization component within the current formula for distribution of state aid funding,
• Provide opportunity for legislative funding for main library structures in small counties that do not meet Federal Square Footage standards, demonstrate that they meet appropriate local conditions and funding

Non-Charter County Revenue Issues
• Authorize non-charter counties to levy Communications Services Tax at the level authorized for charter counties and cities. Communications Services Tax - Currently provides that charter counties and cities can levy communications services tax at a rate of up to 5.2% while non-charter counties can levy only up to 1.72%. The tax is applied to purchases on telephone service, cable service, and wireless service. F.S. 202.20(a)
• Authorize non-charter counties to levy the Public Service Tax. The “Municipality Utilities Tax” provides cities and charter counties with authority to levy a rate of up to 10% on purchases of natural gas, electricity and water. Charter Counties got the ability to levy this from a court case in the 90’s. The court ruled that Charter Counties had all powers of local self-government. F.S. 166.231
• Provide non-charter counties with authority to contract with private utilities companies or other billing entities for collection of fees or other local assessments.

Emergency Management
• Infrastructure Needs – provide funding for emergency management related facilities to meet the evacuation and shelter needs in Florida’s small counties.
• Road Capabilities - Ensure small county roads receive the support needed within the Strategic Intermodal System and the Florida Transportation Plan to accommodate evacuation needs of coastal and urban communities.
• Communications - Revise the distribution formula for 911 funding to enhance funding to rural areas.

Affordable Housing
• Consider establishing grant programs to counties to assist in providing funding for down payment/Closing Cost support and repairs, rehabilitation, and/or emergency repairs to residential structures.

Liability Issues
• Maintain Sovereign Immunity Limits and the current process for resolving claims.
• Evaluate and revise the legislation pertaining to presumption relating to Police and Firefighters to ensure claims are in fact job-related.

TRANSPORTATION AND ROAD POLICY PROPOSALS

SCRAP and SCOP
• Provide funding for the Small County Road Assistance Program (339.2816 FS) and the Small County Outreach Program (339.2818 FS).
• Supplement fixed appropriations in SCRAP and SCOP with additional funding to keep pace with the increases in construction costs.

TRIP
• Provide continued technical assistance that would facilitate TRIP funding for regional transportation projects in rural counties.

Strategic Intermodal System
• Ensure that the Florida’s Strategic Intermodal System is accessible from all areas of the state, includes strategic emerging transportation hubs, corridors and connectors important to rural communities, and is not funded at the expense of other road programs important to small counties.

Florida Transportation Plan 2020 Revision
• Ensure that the Florida Transportation Plan provides sufficient focus, direction and funding to address the development of efficient road systems in Florida’s rural counties.

Dirt Roads
• Ensure that local governments have the authority to initiate routine maintenance on existing infrastructure (roads, ditches, driveways, etc.) without having to comply with burdensome, overly prescriptive and costly permit requirements.

Transportation Disadvantaged
• Increase funding for the Transportation Disadvantaged programs that are providing critical services to the medically needy, elderly, and developmentally challenged.

Energy Issues
• Develop programs to maximize buying power of state and local governments to influence favorable pricing for fuel efficient equipment, vehicles and actual fuel purchases.
• Ensure aggressive oversight and enforcement relating to consumer protection from energy costs.
• Consider approaches to develop alternative fuel sources.

Gas and Sales Tax
• Consider indexing local option fuel taxes to an inflation factor.
• Review distribution formulas for GAS TAX and SALES TAX to ensure fair distribution to areas that do not have significant Points of Collections within their communities Road Reclassification
 • Allow counties demonstrating fiscal hardship to reclassify counties roads to the state road system.

RESOURCE MANAGEMENT POLICY PROPOSALS

Water Utilization and Transfer
• Ensure local government participation in water supply availability determinations;
• Continue Local Sources First Philosophy; and,
• Require that prior to transferring water from another region or county, entities in areas desiring water transfer, shall: • Maximize utilization of local sources to the extent to which sustainability is impacted;
• Implement conservation methods or other locally identified opportunities;
• Take steps to limit cause of increased consumption, such as a moratorium on new construction until an adequate supply of water is available in the community; and,
• Ensure that any transfer determination meets a “No Harm” standard in reference to the region from which water is being transferred.

Solid Waste/Recycling
• Maintain $6.5 million in funding for small county solid waste grant, litter control, waste tire, and recycling grants.
• Consider increasing funding for grants to stimulate innovative programs.

Water Projects
• Ensure that Small Counties receive funding for Sewer and Water line hookups and Storm Water Projects including Innovative Water Supply Initiatives, and other local infrastructure project needs.

Coastal And Marine Impacts
• Support research and program initiatives that will ascertain the causes and provide for remedies relating to Red Tide, algae blooms, forms of water pollution and other related environmental degradation occurring in Florida’s coastal waters.
• Initiate comprehensive program to offset the economic impacts that Red Tide, Hurricane damage, Gas Increases, and Coastal Water quality problems have had on all elements of Florida’s marine industries.
• Support a Working Waterfronts program that ensures local government participation in development of local plans.

Sludge Disposal
• Require that local governments be notified by DEP prior to the issuance of permits for disposal of sewage residuals. Non-native Invasive Plants
• Ensure sufficient funding and support to effectively address the management and spread of non-native invasive upland and aquatic species throughout Florida.

Agriculture
• Promote, protect and strengthen efforts to support the agricultural economy of the State of Florida and other industries that are critical to the economies of rural areas.
• Ensure a coordinated state/local policy to support the unique land use issues of agricultural properties and ensure that local governments retain ability to establish local ordinance regulating land use issues.
• Provide funding for the Rural Lands Stewardship Program and the Rural & Family Lands Protection Act, as well as, other programs structured to preserve agricultural lands and promote Agriculture.
• Maintain existing ad valorem taxation policies relating to Agricultural property.
• Small County Agriculture and Education Projects - provide funding for Agriculture and Education Center projects recommended by DACS and IFAS.

Growth Management
• Ensure that growth management proposals are not one size fits all; overly burdensome and do not limit potential for growth in rural areas.
• Provide additional funding options for counties to meet expenses relating to growth.
• Ensure the growth management process provides flexibility at the local and regional level providing rural counties with increased flexibility and opportunity for changing the future land use plan to accommodate industrial/light manufacturing zone changes.
• Ensure that small counties have the resources to effectively assess the impact of growth and development in neighboring communities; and promote the capacity of the Department of Community Affairs and the Regional Planning Councils to assist local governments with planning considerations.
• Revise growth management process requirements to be more flexible in recognizing local and regional differences.
• Require DCA to expedite review of plan amendments that relate to economic development opportunities in rural areas.

Permitting and Inspections
• Provide alternatives to existing requirements for rural county building inspectors and plan examiners that acknowledge differing skill sets needed amongst rural/urban certification.
• Oppose Performance Based Permitting Program.

Land Buying Programs
• Payment In Lieu of Taxes - Provide for continuation of PILT funding beyond the 10 year limit, in counties where the percentage of land owned by the public sector exceeds 50% or the amount of taxable value of property removed from the tax roll has a significant impact on county revenues. Incorporate within PILT funding formula consideration of infrastructure needs and other impacts resulting from increased utilization of land purchased by state agencies.
• Conservation Easements - Consider initiating a program of conservation easements and/or leases as an alternative to fee simple purchase within land acquisition programs thereby maintaining the revenue capacity of property secured by public agencies.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT POLICY PROPOSALS

Rural Economic Development Initiative
• Commitment To REDI - Ensure that State Agency Leadership are familiar with and committed to the REDI process and ensure that Agency REDI coordinators have access to and consult with Agency management on resource and policy issues.
• Implementation of REDI Statutes - Ensure the all REDI Agencies are implementing the statutes that enable REDI counties to effectively compete and received sufficient support to facilitate local projects. Specifically pertaining to F.S. 288.019 – modifying evaluation criteria; F.S. 288.0656 – Assigning High level Staff to REDI and, F.S. 288.06561 – Providing Waiver of match policy that enables project effectiveness.
• Technical Assistance - Ensure that State Agencies provide technical assistance to small counties in an effort to maximize administrative and financial support.
• Documentation and Marketing of Resources - Require every State Agency to identify and document specific resources that are intended to or could be used to assist rural community development and implement technical assistance to ensure accessibility and resource delivery at the local level. Ensure that all existing “Grants and Resources” available to assist small counties are marketed by state agencies and used in a coordinated manner to ensure distribution and impact at the local level.
• Administrative Assistance - Ensure that all agency programs that provide funding and services for local governments provide the necessary administrative assistance for small counties to access the state resources.
• Regulatory Flexibility - Require flexibility in regulatory and administrative requirements that require additional local resources and increase local costs
• Fiscal Hardship Evaluation Points - The Small County Coalition requests that agency grant programs that award additional evaluation points to municipalities be amended to give an opportunity to score an equivalent amount of points to rural counties that evidence fiscal hardships.
• Ensure Commissioner involvement on Rural Areas of Critical Economic Concern governing boards.
• Ensure that all Rural Enterprise Zones that apply for re-designation are re-designated.

Economic Development Incentives and Infrastructure
• Fund the Rural Community Development Revolving Loan Program fund at $10 million.
• Provide $5 million in funding for the Rural Infrastructure Program.
• Fund the Economic Development Transportation Fund at $20 million.
• Support Quick Response Training Program (QRT) at $10 million and Incumbent Worker Training Program at $5 million
• Support $4 million level for the Enterprise Florida’s -"Team Florida Marketing Campaign"
• Continue funding for implementation of the strategic plan of action from target identification to marketing, and site development within each of the three Rural Areas of Critical Economic Concern.
• Amend the Enterprise Zone Sales Tax Refund for Business Equipment by reducing value of a unit eligible for sales tax exemption on business machinery and equipment from $5000 to $500.
• Provide for a one time transfer of unused credits between eligible entities within authorized enterprise zones under the Rural Job Tax Credit, Urban Job Tax Credit, and Enterprise Zone Job Tax Credit programs.
• Establish a $1 million rural set aside within the Enterprise Zone Community Contribution Tax Refund Program to assure availability of credits in rural communities.
• Provide $35 million in funding for the Qualified Target Industry Tax Program.
• Allocate $50 million for the Quick Action Closing Fund.
• Promote the enhancement of tourism in rural areas by VISIT FLORIDA
• Promote the expansion of the uses of the Tourist Development Funding to include, but not be limited to, eco-tourism infrastructure such as boat ramps, docking structures, and parking facilities.


Legislative Districts Representing Small Counties


18 of 40 Senate Districts Include Small Counties

Senate District 1 - Tony Hill - Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns
Senate District 2 - Durell Peaden - Holmes, Santa Rosa, Walton and Washington
Senate District 3 - Nancy Argenziano - Baker, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Levy, Madison,      Suwannee, and Taylor
Senate District 4 - Don Gaetz - Santa Rosa and Walton
Senate District 5 - Stephen Wise - Nassau and St. Johns
Senate District 6 - Al Lawson - Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Jefferson, Liberty, Madison, and Wakulla
Senate District 7 - Evelyn Lynn - Putnam
Senate District 8 - Jim King - Flagler, Nassau and St. Johns
Senate District 11 - Mike Fasano - Citrus and Hernando
Senate District 14 - Steve Oelrich - Bradford, Columbia, Gilchrist, Levy, Putnam and Union
Senate District 15 - Paula Dockery - Hernando and Sumter
Senate District 17 - J.D. Alexander - DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, and Okeechobee
Senate District 20 - Carey Baker - Sumter
Senate District 21 - Mike Bennett - DeSoto
Senate District 26 - Mike Haridopolis - Indian River
Senate District 27 - Dave Aronberg - Glades and Hendry
Senate District 28 - Ken Pruitt  -Indian River, Martin, and Okeechobee
Senate District 39 - Larcenia - Bullard Hendry and Monroe

30 of 120 House Districts Include Small Counties

House District 1 - Greg Evers - Santa Rosa
House District 3 - Holly Benson - Santa Rosa
House District 4 - Ray Sansom - Santa Rosa
House District 5 - Don Brown - Holmes, Jackson, Walton, and Washington
House District 6 - Jimmy Patronis - Franklin and Gulf
House District 7 - Marti Coley - Calhoun, Gadsden, Jackson, Liberty, Wakulla and Walton
House District 8 - Curtis Richardson - Gadsden
House District 9 - Loranne Ausley - Jefferson
House District 10 - Will Kendrick - Columbia, Dixie, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Levy, Madison, Taylor, and Wakulla
House District 11 - Debbie Boyd - Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, and Suwannee
House District 12 - Aaron Bean - Baker, Bradford, Nassau and Union
House District 18 - Don Davis - St. Johns
House District 19 - Dick Kravitz - St. Johns
House District 20 - Bill Proctor - Flagler and St. Johns
House District 21 - Joe Pickens - Bradford, and Putnam
House District 22 - Larry Cretul - Levy
House District 26 - Pat Patterson - Flagler
House District 29 - Ralph Poppell - Indian River
House District 42 - Hugh Gibson - Sumter
House District 43 - Charles Dean - Citrus, Hernando and Levy
House District 44 – Robert Schenck - Hernando and Sumter
House District 66 - Baxter Troutman - Hardee and Highlands
 House District 72 - Paige Kreegel - DeSoto
House District 77 - Denise Grimsley - Glades, Hendry and Highlands
House District 78 - Richard Machek - Martin and Okeechobee
House District 79 - Frank Attkinson - Okeechobee
 House District 80 - Stan Mayfield - Indian River
House District 81 - Gayle Harrell - Martin
House District 82 - William Snyder - Martin
House District 120 - Ron Saunders - Monroe