Governor signs public-private partnership measure

skennedy@bradenton.comJune 29, 2013 

MANATEE -- Gov. Rick Scott has signed a measure into law despite a veto request from a Florida League of Cities official, who argued that it favored private developers' interests over those of taxpayers.

The governor signed the legislation, which deals with the financial details of public-private partnerships, into law Thursday. The measure's sponsor, state Rep. Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, defended it Friday, saying that it simply creates guidelines for cities and counties and other governmental entities to use in drawing up financial arrangements for partnerships between public and private bodies.

"It gives lenders assurances that the state supports them, that was the purpose of the bill," said Steube in a phone interview.

"The signing of this bill will create jobs, encourage economic development and provide infrastructure to taxpayers at little or no taxpayer expense," Steube said.

However, a letter from Michael Sittig, executive director of the League of Cities, urging a veto said that, while such partnerships are "crucial" to addressing Florida's infrastructure needs, the bill would inhibit their use.

The measure, H.B. 85, "preempts local governments that enter into public-private partnerships from following their current public-private partnership procurement procedures," he wrote.

The league contended it would eliminate the necessary flexibility to negotiate and contract with private entities, adding, "The public-private framework required under the bill is specifically

designed to benefit private entities at the expense of Florida's taxpayers."

Sittig also said the measure "clearly authorizes public entities to lend funds to private entities."

That assertion was disputed Friday by Assistant Manatee County Attorney Robert Eschenfelder, who explained, "The Constitution of Florida prohibits that."

Steube has accepted a request to report on the measure and other legislative matters at the July 30 meeting of the Manatee County Commission, said Nick Azzara, the county information outreach coordinator.

Pat Neal, a home builder in the area for 45 years, said in a phone interview that he wasn't familiar with the legislation itself, but that he had attempted public-private partnerships locally with less-than-satisfactory results.

"Anything that would make it more practical would be a good idea," he said.

John Tupps, a spokesman for the governor's office, noted the measure passed with wide margins of approval.

"Gov. Scott was happy to sign this legislation that encourages private investment and continued job growth in Florida," said Tupps, adding that the legislation was supported by such groups as the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Associated Industries of Florida, among others.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.

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