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Three city of Brooksville projects could receive state funding and other legislative updates

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Andrew Kaley of Sunrise Consulting, together with City Attorney John Cary presented an overview of the 2022 Legislative Session. The presentation took place at the May 2, 2022, regular Brooksville City Council meeting.

Kaley reported that of 3,735 bills filed, 285, or 7.6 percent were passed. Sixty percent of the bills passed unanimously and 98 percent had bipartisan support. He added that there has been a perception of “a rigid partisan divide over ‘culture wars’ dominating the … 2022 session” however the reality is that all but seven bills had at least some bipartisan support.”

Once again, the state’s budget has increased. Kaley said that even at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, when items were deleted from the budget, and later added, the state saw increasing sales tax every month.

Highlights of the Fiscal Year (FY22/23) budget include $2.3 billion for Everglades Restoration, and other water projects, an additional $1 billion inflation reserve fund, law enforcement recruitment bonus, first responder bonuses, an approximate five percent increase in per-student education funding, minimum wage increases for school district employees, creation of a 6th District Court of Appeals, investments in nursing education and a 5.38 percent state employee pay increase.

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Kaley said that seven years ago, the state had enough in reserve to fund the state for six days, and current reserves allow the state to operate for six weeks. “We are a very healthy state,” Kaley said, adding that debt has been paid down from $30 billion to $14 billion. For comparison, New York’s debt service is approximately one-quarter of a trillion dollars.

The largest appropriation for Hernando County is the improvement of County Line Road. Other projects include improvements at the Brooksville – Tampa Bay Regional Airport (BKV), emergency preparedness infrastructure, and the addition of a state college fire academy at Pasco Hernando State College (PHSC).

Brooksville stormwater conveyance project was fully funded at $312,500. Brooksville will also receive $575,000 for a Critical Facility Power Backup Plan and $272,500 for its Hernando Oaks Water Reclamation project.

All of these are subject to veto authority by Governor Ron DeSantis.

Kaley mentioned key House bills (HB) and Senate bills (SB).

SB 620 — Local Business Projection Act enacts a legal process where a business can recover losses caused by new ordinances passed by local governments. The petitioner must demonstrate a 15% loss of profits. However, an easy cure for local government would be to simply repeal the ordinance and dissolve the case. This law goes into effect July 1, 2022.

SB 518 — Rights to Prune, Trim, and Remove Trees provides that a local government can inhibit a property owner’s rights to prune, trim, or remove trees on their own property if the tree “poses an unacceptable risk” to persons or property. An engineer or arborist will need to document the risk. This law goes into effect immediately after signing.

HB 7049 — Legal Notices gives a governmental agency the option to publish legal notices on a county website instead of in a print newspaper if it is shown to be cheaper to do so. Described as “very exciting” by Kaley since it could decrease the money spent by the city to post legal notices in a print newspaper. Kaley reported that statewide, local governments spend $240 million on the publication of legal notices.

In counties with fewer than 160,000 residents, the county will have a public workshop to determine the number of residents with access to the internet. The city can still choose to publish in a print newspaper and/or on a newspaper’s website. This bill went to the governor’s desk and was signed on May 10, 2022. This law goes into effect January 1, 2023.

HB 3 — Law Enforcement Recruitment creates the recruitment bonus program to provide a one-time bonus of up to $5,000 to newly employed law enforcement officers (LEOs). The bill also offers a $1,000 academy scholarship program for new recruits and a $1,000 sponsorship of out-of-state transfers for equivalency. Additional benefits for adoption and education will be available for children of LEOs. The bill also designates May 1st as Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. This law goes into effect on July 1, 2022.

HB 105 — Regulation of Smoking by Municipalities — allows local governments to restrict smoking within the boundaries of any public beach or park they own. There will be exceptions for unfiltered cigars. “That’s one right that cannot be trampled on,” Kaley added but did not give a reason for the exception. This law goes into effect July 1, 2022.

In the upcoming election in November, voters will vote on House Joint Resolution 1 – Homestead Exemptions, which proposes a constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to provide an additional homestead exemption of $50,000 for classroom teachers, and law enforcement and corrections officers, firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs. Child welfare professionals, and Florida National Guard members will also qualify for the additional exemption, as will active-duty members of the United States Armed Forces. There will be limits on home prices to qualify for the exemption.

The City Attorney added that another notable bill that passed is the Constitutional Prohibition Against Lobbying by a Public Officer (CS/CS/HB 7001). The bill prohibits lobbying by certain public officers both during public service and for a six-year period following vacation of public office. Section 8(f), Article II of the state constitution was approved by voters in 2018 and goes into effect on December 31, 2022.

The prohibition applies to lobbying before the federal government, the Legislature, any state agency, or any political subdivision. The attorney cautioned council members that they are included in this group, and may not lobby for compensation for six years after their term is complete. This law goes into effect on December 31, 2022.

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