2015 Legislative Program

The Small County Coalition Legislative Agenda

Introduction  

The Small County Coalition is a statewide alliance of county commissions from small and rural counties.   The purpose of the Coalition is to give increased visibility and support to the issues to small counties and rural communities. 

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:

MAJOR LEGISLATIVE GUIDING PRINCIPLES

  • Continue Funding in High Priority Need Areas; 
  • Ensure Effectiveness of Economic Development Efforts; Stimulate Employment Growth; and Target Actions to Protect Against Job Losses or Economic Instability; 
  • Oppose Proposals that Shift Cost from State to Local level, Increase Local Costs, and/or are “One Size Fits All” approaches;     
  • Identify and Eliminate, Waive, Delay, or Mitigate Requirements, Regulations, Mandated Criteria, Reports, Studies, or other requirements that are non-critical, have unintended consequences, and result in increased local spending; and, 
  • Ensure “Meaningful Local Involvement” in State or Regional activities and decisions.

Priorities to Guide the 2015 Legislative Session

The Small County Coalition submits the following suggestions 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.

Support mitigating the impact within Medicaid County Cost Share Formula to a set increase – The Small County Coalition supports establishing a cap on the individual county Medicaid cost share growth that remedies the disparity caused by the formula change mandated in SB 1520 in the 2013 Legislative Session. The State is requested to provide an appropriation to offset the county cost share in excess of the set cap.

Protect priority program funding - The Small County Coalition requests that funding levels to high valued grant programs and revenue sharing be protected. These programs include – Small County Road funding, Revenue Sharing, Fiscally Constrained programs; State Aid for Local Libraries; Support for Transportation Projects and Programs; Transportation Disadvantaged; Regional Planning Councils, Housing funds; County Health Department Funding and Rural Health Initiatives; Aerial Photography; Small County Water Projects; Payment In Lieu of Taxes; Courthouse and infrastructure projects.

Protect Fiscally Constrained County Offset Funding – The Small County Coalition requests a Fiscally Constrained funding component with any proposed constitutional amendment that reduces local revenue capacity.

Protect Rural Water Resources – Water resources are a critical asset to Florida’s rural economy and future economic development efforts. The Small County Coalition supports state funding of water projects that protect and enhance water quality and water quantity. In addition, the Coalitions suggests funding wastewater infrastructure in areas where land application remains the primary cost-effective method of septage disposal. The Small County Coalition opposes additional statutory requirements relating to waterinfrastructure that are not accompanied with sufficient funding to comply with requirements for timelines and construction.

Disposal of Septic Waste - The Small County Coalition supports extending the authority for land application of septage which is set to expire in 2016 until funding is provided to counties that do not have the fiscal resources to provide alternative disposal methods.

Land Acquisition - The Small County Coalition supports provisions at the state level that require the involvement of local officials within land acquistion programs for the purpose of identifying impacts and determining specific actions that are necessary to enable subsequent community development.

Payment In Lieu of Taxes - The Small County Coalition supports comprehensive Payment In Lieu of Taxes programs that offset the impact of lands acquired by Federal, State, or other tax-exempt entities. PILT programs should be funded in a fashion, so as not to diminish the fiscal capacity of small counties. Regarding lands purchased by Water Management Districts, the Coalition requests that funding from the Water Management Trust Fund be allocated to the water management districts for Payment In Lieu of Taxes to eligible counties. In addition, the Small County Coalition requests that the Legislature consider adjusting PILT payments to accommodate the increased value and/or the valued use of the property by the purchasing entity.

Rural Economic Development - The Small County Coalition supports reauthorization of the Florida Enterprise Zone program with changes that increase effectiveness of the program in rural areas – eliminate the require location in blighted areas. The Small County Coalition supports the creation of a Rural Grants Program that will assist with upfront infrastructure costs relating to a certified sites program and construction of “speculative” buildings to help assist rural economic development. The Small County Coalition supports the creation of a Tax Incentive reimbursement program to offset the cost of ad valorem tax incentives necessary to secure economic development projects in Florida’s small rural communities.

Rural Health Care – The Small County Coalition supports restoring funding reductions in operating support to County Health Departments.

Funding for Jails and EOC’s - The Small County Coalition supports funding to assist in expansion and construction of local jail facilities and emergency operation centers in counties that lack the resources to address critical construction needs.

Support Efforts to Protect, Promote and Enhance the Agriculture Industry - The Small County Coalition supports state and federal efforts to research and assist the citrus industry in addressing and controlling the damage and threat caused by citrus greening/Huanglongbing (HLB). The Small County Coalition supports funding for small county projects prioritized and recommended within the Agriculture Education and Program Facility program.

Promote the Sustainability of Marine Resources - The Small County Coalition is concerned with the short and long-term sustainability of the saltwater and freshwater water bodies and the impact of waterrelated environmental and regulatory issues on marine and freshwater resources. Recreational fishing, fisheries production, and water-related ecotourism are vital to the State of Florida, in all coastal counties, and especially in the small counties where employment opportunities are limited. The Small County Coalition urges all local, state, and federal agencies to coordinate programs concerning renewable marine resources. The Small County Coalition recognizes the importance of water quality and water flow in areas where oysters and shellfish are produced, and where fishing resources are critical to the local economy. The Small County Coalition supports efforts to protect the marine and freshwater fishing industry and urges that regulatory decisions be based on current science and stock assessment data and take into consideration economic impacts on coastal economies. The Small County Coalition supports the efforts of the State of Florida to restore the historical water flow levels in the Apalachicola River Basin. The Small County Coalition supports programs and funding that provides assistance to the Shellfish industry in the Apalachicola and Nature Coast regions.

Transportation Disadvantaged in Rural Areas – The Small County Coalition is concerned about the transportation needs of Floridians that qualify for transportation disadvantaged services and the impact on the provision of services resulting from the removal of Medicaid Non Emergency Transportation (NET) from coordination under statutes. Counties in rural areas are experiencing decreases in funding resulting from the fragmentation of the coordinated systems and are requesting specific funding to support Medicaid Non-Emergency Transportation services. The Small County Coalition requests the Florida Legislature to provide funding to address the unmet demand for transportation service in Florida’s rural areas.

Provide Revenue Flexibility – The Small County Coalition supports increased flexibility in local revenue sources as determined for local funding needs. Specifically, the Coalition requests additional flexibility in the use of the funds generated by the discretionary $65.00 cost on criminal and traffic cases provided in s. 939.185, F.S.

Local Regulatory Authority - The Small County Coalition supports county commissions having local regulatory flexibility to exceed state requirements within county jurisdictions, if the local county commission determines local conditions warrant more stringent requirements than those required by the state.

 

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