Legislative Session Preview: Electric vehicles, major road projects on Senate transportation committee’s agenda
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'If we don't have a vision for transportation, a vision for for infrastructure needs, we're going to fall behind,' Sen. Nick DiCeglie said.

The Senate Transportation Committee is poised to tackle issues such as looking at whether to add new registrations for electric vehicles, expanding EV charging stations and fast-tracking 20 major road construction projections.

Sen. Nick DiCeglie, who heads the committee, outlined some of his priorities before the 60-day Regular Session starts Tuesday.

“If we don’t have a vision for transportation, a vision for infrastructure needs, we’re going to fall behind,” he said in an interview with Florida Politics. “And if that happens, that’s going to impact the quality of life of folks who live here, folks who are visiting here.”

One issue is how to manage and support the rise of electric vehicles on the road.

Drivers of electric vehicles don’t pay a gas tax which helps support road maintenance and state costs, so DiCeglie said legislators are considering whether to add an EV registration fee. He said other states have added a surcharge, which costs around $150 a year.

“It’s a conversation that we need to have because ultimately … we can’t kick that can down the road,” said the St. Petersburg Republican. “The more and more electric vehicles purchased in the state, the less gas tax that we have, and we really have to figure out exactly how we’re going to manage that. That’s certainly something we’re going to be talking about.”

DiCeglie said he’s not sure which Senator is filing the bill but he said he was “anticipating something being proposed here pretty soon.”

DiCeglie said legislators and the Florida Department of Transportation are looking at adding more electric car charging stations with help of federal money.

“There are some pockets in the state, especially in the rural parts of the state, where we need to focus,” he said.

The issue is complicated, involving stakeholders from electric companies, gas stations and even some legislators who have voiced hesitation to get involved. Some argue EV chargers should emerge from the free market instead of backed by government money, DiCeglie acknowledged.

DiCeglie’s Transportation Committee is also expected to consider Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Moving Florida Forward” infrastructure initiative, which fast tracks 20 road construction projects across the state by infusing $7 billion into the state budget over four years. The road work targets congested multiple areas in the state, including South Florida and the corridor between Tampa and Orlando.

Another key issue DiCeglie expects to be brought up is deciding whether transportation planning organizations should consolidate. It’s been an issue debated in Tampa Bay, where Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties each have their own transportation planning bodies.

“I think it’s incredibly important for these MPOs (metropolitan planning organizations) to have one voice,” DiCeglie said, pointing to Jacksonville and Orlando as good examples of using a unified voice to leverage federal dollars.

He said Florida has 27 MPOs, which he said was the most of any state in the country.

The Legislature doesn’t have the power to require MPOs to consolidate, “but what we can do is we can move the conversation forward,” DiCeglie said. “One of the concepts I’m working on is to have all of the 27 MPOs file an annual report and really just kind of laying out what they do, how they do it, whether or not they could collaborate with other neighboring MPOs.”

The information would eventually go to Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul RennerDiCeglie said.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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