To Florida Legislature, move on vacation rentals, juvenile detention bills

April 23, 2014 

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott talks with local officials during breakfast at Peaches restaurant on Manatee Avenue West in late October. Beside him are state Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Jim Boyd. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

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As the Legislature enters the final days of the 2014 regular session, several bills important to Manatee County and its municipalities teeter on the edge of failure unless House and Senate negotiations iron out differences.

In a wide ranging discussion of legislative matters Friday near the end of the Legislature's weeklong break, Bradenton Republican state Sen. Bill Galvano explored those bills with the Herald.

Vacation rental rules

When the Legislature eliminated local control of the home vacation rental market in 2011 (with some grandfathered exceptions), the cities on Anna Maria Island witnessed a degradation of neighborhoods as new and existing homes began catering to visitors -- as had been well chronicled.

In effect, these were hotels in residential areas that cities could not regulate.

Both the House and Senate have entertained bills that would repeal most state pre-emption of local governments on this issue.

The House version, HB 307, however, does not allow local regulations restricting the duration or frequency of vacation rentals, letting stand the weekend parties that disrupt the peace.

The Senate's bill, SB 356, contains a Galvano amendment that lets local governments place a weeklong minimum stay on those vacation rentals -- a far preferable option that would help restore neighborhood tranquility.

Even Bradenton has nuisance vacation rental homes, so the problem is not exclusive to Anna Maria Island.

We urge Manatee County's House delegation to support the Senate's reasonable restriction.

Youth detention costs

Manatee County stands to regain some $4 million in state overcharges for juvenile detention costs under a House bill, 5305. A companion measure in the Senate, SB 1532, does not offer reimbursement, a poor policy in light of the state's illegal shift of expenses that Florida's First District Court ruled invalid last year.

Those onerous invoices from the state Department of Juvenile Justice began a decade ago, when the agency forced counties to pay 75 percent of detention costs when those government were only responsible for 32 percent as policy dictated.

Both the House and Senate bills install a new billing formula that requires counties to cover 50 percent of juvenile detention costs. Should the two chambers fail to reach a compromise, then Gov. Rick Scott's billing plan appears to be the only solution -- but his idea is the worst, charging counties 57 percent with zero reimbursement.

Sen. Galvano supports some pay back, a position we hope he pushes hard as the session winds down. Counties deserve tax monies returned, and the governor's plan cannot be allowed to come about.

Big developments

Galvano's controversial growth management bill, SB 372, looks dead this session, he acknowledged Friday. The measure would expand the number of counties exempt from the state's "Developments of Regional Impact" review, a expensive and time-consuming process.

Manatee and Sarasota counties would have been added to the current eight counties that enjoy the exemption, bringing the total to 15 around the state.

In addition, DRIs would not have to be proposed within urban areas -- a bone of contention with the Long Bar Pointe project. At one time, Manatee County designated that land within an Urban Service Area but later rescinded that vote.

But Galvano explained his motivation for the "tough" bill did not factor in Long Bar Pointe.

Some of Port Manatee’s growth potential falls under DRI regulations while Port of Tampa does not, thus creating a competitive imbalance. Businesses prefer the path of least resistance when growing their enterprise, and Galvano hoped to level the playing field.

But a companion bill in the House, HB 241, stalled in committee, and odds are long that it will be heard.

Galvano intends to try again from a different angle next year, even noting that it might be easier to repeal the entire DRI law instead of modifying it.

Complete local control of major developments whose impacts spread beyond county lines opens the door to negative growth consequences, as we opined in February.

We fully support Galvano's intent to boost Port Manatee and hope he finds a way that will pass muster in the Legislature.

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