Familiar issues top Florida League of Cities’ legislative priorities

Home rule

There may be new legislative leadership, but old lawmaking sticking points are shaping up to remain unchanged.

The Florida League of Cities, for example, recently unveiled its legislative priorities for the upcoming 2019 Legislative Session.

Perennial issues line the group’s platform. But most fit under the ideological umbrella of Home Rule, the idea that local governments — more than 400 of which are represented by the League — should have considerable discretion in governing themselves.

Each year, a legislative dichotomy plays out between Home Rule and preemption, a term coined for kicking oversight up to the state.   

This year likely won’t be an anomaly.

The League coalesced around five priorities ahead of the 2019 Session during its recent annual legislative conference in Orlando.

“Our city officials are eager to work with state legislators to protect the quality of life in our communities,” said Bartow Mayor and Florida League of Cities President Leo Longworth. “Through our united advocacy platform, we are ready to meet with stakeholders, build consensus and ensure that local issues are solved through local decisions.”

One of the most recognizable and recurring positions is the League’s stance on short-term vacation rentals.

The group supports legislation “that restores local zoning authority with respect to short-term rental properties thereby preserving the integrity of Florida’s residential neighborhoods and communities,” according to its priorities list.

Some lawmakers pushed bills last year to preempt regulation of such rentals, provided by services like Airbnb, to the state, but that measure ultimately died. The League opposed both the House and Senate versions of the legislation.

Also on the League’s radar are any forthcoming bills that might address community redevelopment agencies, or CRAs. During his tenure, former House Speaker Richard Corcoran sought to overhaul and eventually phase out the programs, designed to allow local governments to combat blight and slums and build affordable housing.

But that push also stalled during the 2018 Session, in part because of the League’s opposition to it.

Notably, a two-year FBI investigation into Tallahassee’s CRA resulted in a series of subpoenas regarding deals made by the body.

Also among the League’s priorities are bills related to reforming the Communications Services Tax and transportation funding, as well as any legislative changes to the state’s water quality and supply.

Communications Services Tax reform should be “revenue neutral,” according to the League. It should provide “for a broad and equitable tax base” and “enhanced stability and reliability as an important revenue source for local government.”

With respect to transportation funding, the League wants to preserve “local control of transportation planning.”

“The legislation should create an equitable transportation funding formula between the state, municipalities, and counties, while providing for additional transportation revenue to support innovative infrastructure and transit projects to meet the surging transportation demands driven by dramatic growth throughout Florida,” reads the League’s priority list.

Changes to laws surrounding the state’s water resources, should “mitigate the negative economic impact of these issues through priority corrective actions and funding.”

The 2019 Legislative Session begins March 5, 2019. The annual 60-day session is scheduled to end on May 3.

Danny McAuliffe

Danny is a contributor at floridapolitics.com. He is a graduate of Fordham Law School and Florida State University, where he served as the editor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau. Reach him at [email protected].


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