The House Appropriations Committee Wednesday approved a bill seeking to shift the cost of relocating utility lines for infrastructure improvements from utilities to public entities. In some cases, the costs would be absorbed by the Florida Department of Transportation.
According to LobbyTools, HB 461, filed by Pensacola Republican Rep. Clay Ingram, came after an opinion by the 2nd District Court of Appeals which said under common law, utilities located on public easements must pay for relocating equipment to accommodate roads and other infrastructure projects.
Florida League of Cities representative Megan Sirjane-Samples told the committee that her organization’s opposition to the bill was because of the possibility that municipalities would be forced to raise property taxes to deal with “unfunded mandates.”
“If the 2nd DCA court ruling went too far in local government’s favor,” she said, “we feel this bill goes too far in the public utility provider’s favor.”
Sirjane-Samples did agree that it would be satisfactory for an amendment to include language allowing local governments the flexibility to craft individual agreements with public utilities.
LobbyTools reports that AT&T lobbyist Tracy Hatch testified the law was correcting a ruling that “has cast a pall upon private property.”
The proposal passed by a 19-1 vote, with the only opponent being West Palm Beach Democrat Rep. Mark Pafford. Its next stop is the House floor.
A Senate companion measure, SB 416, filed by Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores, was also read on the Senate floor and is set up for final passage by the full Senate.