Cities and counties propose and the Legislature disposes
Published: Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 22, 2013 at 11:03 p.m.
If Gainesville is where innovation is born, Tallahassee is where it goes to die.
Case in point: Last year the 1,000 Friends of Florida — an organization dedicated to promoting smart growth planning and sustainable public policies — gave Alachua County its "Better Community Award" for the county's new mobility plan.
Long story short, the plan implements regulations and fees intended to encourage development patterns that will facilitate alternative modes of transportation — transit, biking, walking — with the goal of lessening the community's auto-dependency.
"Alachua County is using a comprehensive approach to promote compact, sustainable development that supports a wide range of transportation alternatives," Charles Pattison, president and CEO of 1000 Friends, said at the time. "With its mobility plan, urban services area and multimodal transportation mitigation ordinance, Alachua County has taken a significant step to promote smarter growth."
Translation: You did good, Alachua County.
Last week came another communication from 1,000 Friends of Florida. With the Legislature soon to convene its annual session, the advocacy group has been keeping track of legislation that might impact, for good or ill, the ability of communities to adopt innovative approaches to growth management, like Alachua County's award winning mobility plan.
Sure enough it came across House Bill 319, by state Rep. Lake Ray, R-Duval. It seems that builders are worried that other cities and counties might follow Alachua's lead and adopt mobility plans of their own; which might in turn lead to new fees on builders. So Ray's bill would nip that sort of thing in the bud.
Only two counties, Alachua and Pasco, have adopted mobility programs so far. And 1,000 Friends warns "if this bill were to pass, their innovative programs would be prohibited in the future."
This is par for the course. If local governments can be fairly described as laboratories for innovative ideas, state legislatures tend to be innovation killers.
Lobbyists know that the quickest way to stop cities and counties from adopting ordinances and policies that special interest groups find objectionable is to get the Legislature to prohibit them.
That's why city and county commissions are forbidden by state law from adopting local gun control ordinances.
Ray's bill isn't the only innovation-killing legislation awaiting the 2013 session. This week the Florida Conservation Coalition — a statewide environmental watchdog group founded by former Gov. Bob Graham — put out an alert about Senate Bill 584, by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.
Hays' bill would forbid any state agency, city or county from purchasing land for conservation purposes unless "an equal amount of public property not being held in conservation is returned or sold at fair market value to the private sector."
Voters in Alachua County, of course, have on two occasions agreed to tax themselves in order to buy conservation lands. If enacted, Hays' bill would impose some sort of weird buy-an-acre, sell-an-acre balancing act on any such future initiatives.
"The bill would end Florida Forever and curtail conservation land acquisition in Florida," warns the coalition.
Want more? The Alachua County Commission has been considering following the lead of Miami-Dade and Broward County in adopting a "wage theft" ordinance intended to protect workers from being short-changed by their employers.
Last year a bill prohibiting local governments from passing wage theft ordinances failed to pass. But lawmakers will certainly take another run at that prohibition again this year.
Because that's what they do in Tallahassee.
Cities and counties propose.
And the Legislature disposes.
Ron Cunningham is the former editorial page editor of The Sun.
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