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HomeAt Home & BeyondCounty’s Legislative Priorities for 2023-24 State Legislative Agenda

County’s Legislative Priorities for 2023-24 State Legislative Agenda

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At the December 13, 2022, regular meeting, commissioners discussed the most important items to present to State officials during the 2023-24 Legislative Delegation meeting. The annual public meeting will be held on Thursday, January 12, 2023, where citizens, local organizations, and elected officials testify before the State Officials on crucial local matters. Decisions regarding local legislation will be made at this time.

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Those who would like to be placed on the printed agenda, please contact Representative Jeff Holcomb’s office by emailing [email protected] call (352) 688-5004 before 12:00 PM on Monday, January 9, 2023.

Attendees may also complete a Speaker’s Form on the day of the meeting. Submitters will be called to speak in the order in which the forms are received. Please bring or submit four (4) copies of all relevant materials to the meeting for distribution.

The meeting takes place at the Hernando County Government Center, John Law Ayers Commission Chambers (Room 160) 20 N. Main Street, Brooksville, FL 34601 from 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm.

Items that will be brought to the
Legislative Delegation by the BOCC

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Central Fueling Facility
Funding Request: $966,593
County Match: $311,500

Vetoed in the last session as well as two before, Deputy County Administrator Tobey Phillips added that the county has unsuccessfully sought two grants for this facility since. The State Department of Emergency Management is supportive of the project.
The county first identified the need for a central fueling facility when the Hurricane Irma After Action Report cited the degradation of fuel storage and distribution capabilities during the 2017 storm.
The county benefits by bolstering the availability of fuel for emergency vehicles and generators, and the State potentially benefits if the county can provide mutual aid during unplanned natural disasters.

Hernando Beach Wastewater Resiliency Project — Inflow And Infiltration Reduction
Funding Request: $2,450,000
County Match: $1,650,000

Hernando Beach’s conventional gravity sewer system is susceptible to contamination by inflow and infiltration during coastal flooding and large storm events. Groundwater and stormwater can enter the system through missing clean-out caps, manhole lids, cracks, and leaking joints.
The county is seeking state funding to perform upgrades and repairs to this system, which includes repairing leaks in 3,500 feet of gravity mains and 126 service laterals, repairing and recoating approximately 319 manholes, sealing manhole lids, upgrading the main Hermosa Lift Station, and installing two manhole monitoring systems.

Utilities Director Gordon Onderdonk added that the county currently spends approximately $500,000 annually on the slip lining of the gravity mains and service laterals as part of routine maintenance.
Tallahassee should be interested in this project since Hernando Beach directly connects to the Gulf of Mexico. The entire area is identified in FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) flood maps as a coastal flood zone.

Veterans Memorial Monument
Funding Request: $250,000.00
County Match: $250,000.00

The replacement of the existing monument at Veterans Memorial Park would commemorate those who have honorably served our Country. The State of Florida has more than 1,492,176 veterans who proudly served in our military branches. More than 17,791 currently reside in Hernando County. This monument would not only honor the veterans of the local community but also the State of Florida as a whole.
Commissioner Brian Hawkins pointed out that currently, the monument does not include a designation for Space Force veterans. He also pointed out that the monument is not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. “So our handicapped veterans are not able to actually go to the monument and reflect on their service, or their family members’ service.”
Hawkins also said that the plan is to move the monument to a more predominant part of the park and to use the current flags along the walking trail throughout the park.

State Aid to Public Libraries Grant Program

The State Aid to Libraries program rewards counties for local dollars spent on public libraries. Florida Statutes allow the State to match up to 25 cents for each local dollar spent. In 2001, State Aid to public libraries was $33.4 million. The county seeks to restore funding to the 2001 level.
All Florida libraries receive funding from the Federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). LTSA funds Florida with about $9 million annually. In turn, Florida’s minimum “Maintenance of Effort” required match is $21.2 million. These Federal dollars are leveraged to provide services statewide that impact all libraries with critical programs like the Florida Electronic Library, Interlibrary loan services, and grants to local libraries.

Effectively, Hernando County libraries are completely funded for materials and operations.
Commissioner Steve Champion acknowledged before speaking that his comments are considered controversial. “The library system, if it’s not supported by the state, can’t be supported by the taxpayers of this county, so there would have to be cuts. Maybe there would be one central library. There wouldn’t be a need for as many as we have. I think this is a thing of the past. It’s almost like it’s a charity thing now, because everyone has the internet. You can pretty much find everything you need. What use do physical libraries have these days?”
Champion added, “There’s gotta be a change. Or (the funding) has got to be shifted to the school board. There will have to be some change in the future if it’s not funded. I’m not saying we want to cut that; I’m saying if it’s not funded by the state, it’s not going to be funded by the county. So I hope they’re going to continue to fund them.”

Index Gas Tax to Inflation

The topic that elicited the most discussion from the commissioners was the request to index gas tax to the inflation rate. The tax revenue received by the county from gasoline sales was raised to 15 cents per gallon in 2022. It has been raised throughout the years, starting at 6.9 cents per gallon in 1997.

Commissioner Champion initially expressed concern that the request would not be heard at all, due to the language regarding alternative fuel vehicles that says, “Alternative Fueled Vehicles will need to be addressed at some point.”
“I think it’s another tax burden on the citizens. Maybe (the language in the request needs to change) because electric cars are here to stay.”
The question is, if the tax burden is shouldered by drivers of gas and diesel-powered vehicles, then how are drivers of electric, hybrid, and other alternative vehicles paying their share to drive on common roadways?

Chairman John Allocco suggested that the language in the request add some form of tax mechanism to equalize the tax burden. Exactly what that will be is up for further discussion. “If you’re on the road, if you’re using (the road), you should be paying for the maintenance of that road.”
Commissioner Jerry Campbell suggested the matter be brought before the delegation since the issue cannot be addressed at the county level. “We’ve got to be the ones to start this conversation.”
The revised language will be brought back to the board’s January 10, 2022, meeting.

Additional Requests

Commissioner Brian Hawkins added a request for Economic Development to be included in receiving revenue from the county bed tax. Currently, bed tax revenues are distributed to tourism, beaches, convention centers, and stadiums per Florida statute.

Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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