News By Industry
News from Tallahassee for 12/13/13
Senate panel OKs local pension overhaul posted on 12/12/13
by BILL COTTERELL | Current
A key Senate committee voted unanimously Wednesday to defuse "a ticking time bomb" in local government pension plans with a complex formula for redistributing insurance premium tax revenue now reserved for improving retirement benefits for police officers and firefighters.
Sens. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, and Jeremy Ring, the Margate Democrat who chairs the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, said major reforms are needed because too many local pension plans are beneath the 80 percent assets-liability ratio considered healthy. Bradley said a 1999 law requires all increases in revenue from the property insurance premium tax to be used for improving retirement benefits of the emergency first-responders, rather than other local government purposes...
Bradley said his and Ring's bill would separate "unhealthy plans" and impose new funding rules on them, while rewarding those that have ratios above the 80 percent funding level.
Those with an unfunded liability above 20 percent would have to devote half of all increased premium-tax revenue to getting their funding levels up to 80 percent. Another 25 percent of new revenue would be used to fund basic benefits of the existing pension plans, and the remaining one-fourth would be put in a "defined contribution" pension plan -- to attract more employees into that type of investment-based retirement system.
Jack Latvala to Pitch Residency Bill posted on 12/12/13
by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida
The chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee said Tuesday that he will sponsor legislation in the 2014 session spelling out residency requirements for state and local elected officials.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said he will file the bill "pretty soon." He said it would include a list of eight to 10 factors that a judge would consider if questions arise about whether an official lives in the district that he or she was elected to represent.
"I think, once and for all, we need to put in the statutes, here's the criteria for being considered a resident," Latvala told reporters.
Latvala, who is engaged in a battle for the Senate presidency in the legislative term following the 2016 elections, has been hammering the residency issue for months. He has publicly accused Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, of living outside her district; Sachs defeated one of Latvala's GOP supporters in the only incumbent-against-incumbent Senate race of the 2012 election cycle.
Hillsborough hopes improved transportation system will bring jobs posted on 12/12/13
by Mike Salinero | Tampa Tribune
TAMPA — Hillsborough County’s already congested traffic system will only grow worse unless significant improvements are made before 2040, when the county’s population is projected to have grown by more than 500,000 people.
That was the message driven home Wednesday to Hillsborough’s Transportation Policy Leadership Group, a panel of elected officials who need no reminding that the county’s road network is overcrowded and its mass transit system is lacking.
The group _ county commissioners, the county’s three mayors and the chairman of the HART bus system _ is charged with approving major transportation improvements in hopes of connecting job centers and energizing the local economy. Those projects will begin coming to the panel from county staff in the first months of 2014. A decision on how to pay for them will come later in the year.
Right now, commuting times in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area are “not significantly out of line” with similarly sized metro areas, said Steve Polzin, director of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida. The average local commute is 26-27 minutes, slightly over the peer cities in several studies and higher than the national average by only a few minutes.
More worrisome is that the Tampa area ranked 22nd worst out of 105 metro areas in traffic congestion in one study, and 27th worst of 101 in another. The area’s arterial roads _ major roads that aren’t freeways _ are the most heavily used in the country, and use of its freeway is second highest.
Flagler statue clears first hurdle in Legislature posted on 12/12/13
by john kennedy | Palm Beach Post
A measure aimed at allowing a privately funded statue of railroad baron Henry Flagler to go up at the Florida Capitol cleared its first committee hearing Friday in the Florida Senate.
The legislation (SB 250) by Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, was approved by the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee on an 8-0 vote. But the bill still has a long way to go in both the Senate and House, where its sponsor is Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton...
If approved, the Flagler statue would stand out on the state Capitol grounds, which has been mostly kept free of monuments.
Bill would exempt state review of larger developments in 6 more counties posted on 12/11/13
by Bruce Ritchie | Florida Current
A bill filed in advance of the 2014 legislative session would allow six more counties to avoid review by the state of some growth management decisions, continuing a trend in recent years of increasingly less state oversight...
SB 372, filed by Sen. Bill Galvano, would provide the dense urban land area designation to counties with at least 300,000 or densities of 400 people per square mile.
Fourteen cities would fall within the exemption along with six additional counties: Brevard, Lee, Manatee, Pasco, Sarasota and Volusia, according to Galvano's office.
Follow us on Twitter