In preparation for its opening session in March, the Lee County State Legislative Delegation held its annual meeting this week to gather input from residents, organizations, governments and their agencies.
The eight-member delegation, chaired by Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, and made up of fellow House representatives and state senators, took input Wednesday from a broad range of interested parties.
Government entities making legislative pitches included the city of Cape Coral and Cape Coral Police Department, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, Lee County Department of Health, Lee Memorial Health System, the city of Sanibel and the Gasparilla Island Bridge Authority.
Numerous private and not-for-profits, including Lee County Builders Care, PACE Center for Girls, Children's Network of Southwest Florida and Edison State College queued up with requests while the Lee County Sheriff's Office Civil Service Board asked for a bill clarifying language concerning retirement insurance health premium subsidies for employees entitled to that benefit.
Two things top the city's priority list this year, both repeats from previous years.
The Cape would like to see legislation that recognizes the challenges pre-platted communities like ours face. Specifically, city officials would like to see legislation that "emphasizes and supports land assemblage, de-platting or land banking as a public purpose" to undo platting mistakes of the past.
While we understand why the city would like to undo property lines that carved the city into 40-foot building lots sold in multiples to buyers flung across the U.S. decades ago, good luck with that one, bogged down as it is with private property rights and a public loathe to support any type of eminent domain legislation that allows a "taking" of private property for private development, no matter how much desired.
If the city truly wants to get into the land assemblage business, a lot trading program likely would have a greater chance of success - and much sooner and for less cost.
The second top priority makes some sense and should be given consideration. The city wants municipal charter school systems (there are two in Florida, one in Pembroke Pines, the other in the Cape) put on equal footing with other public schools within the state when it comes to funding for capital improvements.
The city would like a share of impact fees collected for facility expansion but is open to other funding sources specifically for the construction or expansion of schools.
We'd like to see this move forward although, at this time, there's little residential construction and so little money flowing into this funding pot for anyone.
Other issues raised by the city include opposition to unfunded mandates - another perennial; support for legislation that would provide "lien superiority" for municipal repair and maintenance of foreclosed properties; support of legislation that would allow cities to apply to the state to amend economic enterprise zones; and support of legislation that would allow cities of more than 100,000 to apply directly to the state for licensure of certain Emergency Management Services.
There is one more, this one brought directly by interim Police Chief Jay Murphy on behalf of the Cape Coral Police Department and other law enforcement agencies in Southwest Florida, asking for a ban on "synthetic marijuana," a chemically enhanced product sold as incense but smoked to get high. The feds are all over this one but it's likely a no-brainer - 13 states have already banned the stuff and state support to follow suit is lining up.
It's an interesting list overgrown with evergreens just in time for the season.
It's also an interesting process, one that allows local governments, like the Cape, to make their pitches directly to the people who can make things happen - or not - without the cost of lobbyists and costly trips to the capital.
The Cape's list, along with all of those presented to the Lee County Delegation may be found via the link provided on The Breeze website, cape-coral-daily-breeze.com
We invite you to read - and to make your views known on any issue that may interest you.
Rep. Gary Aubuchon may be reached at email@example.com
Sen. Garrett Richter can be reached at RICHTER.GARRETT.S37@flsenate.gov
- Breeze editorial