With the conclusion of the Legislature's 2014 regular session on Friday night, Manatee County's key legislators proved adept if not always successful.
Sen. Bill Galvano and Reps. Jim Boyd and Greg Steube, all Republicans, sponsored major pieces of legislation that caught statewide attention -- some positive, some negative.
The newly minted state budget of some $77.1 billion now awaits Gov. Rick Scott's signature, as does the mountain of legislation approved by the Legislature.
Galvano's wins, losses
Sen. Bill Galvano encountered broad opposition to his bill to further dismantle the state's growth management law -- this Editorial Board among the sharp critics.
The measure impacted Manatee and Sarasota counties among others, granting exemptions from state review of Developments of Regional Impact.
With this exemption in hand, Manatee County alone could approve a major development like the one proposed for Long Bar Pointe, and the developers would avoid the lengthy and expensive DRI process.
Galvano couldn't maneuver the minefield set up by the state's largest counties, which already enjoy DRI exemptions, or smaller counties that wanted in on the deal. Thus, SB 372 died.
His intent, he told this board, was to level the competitive playing field so developers wouldn't avoid Manatee in favor of Hillsborough.
He plans to return next session with a different approach, though, he said: Complete repeal of the DRI law might be the easiest route to success.
Galvano found total success with several other bills important to him.
One bill bans the mass collection of motor vehicle crash reports within 60 days of the accident, the current period of confidentiality.
Anyone seeking a report must make a sworn statement that the report will not be used for any commercial solicitation of accident victims. That will thwart ambulance-chasers.
Another requires the court to appoint an attorney for a dependent child with special needs in treatment centers, nursing homes and other criteria. Those children need this state support to protect and improve their lives.
A third bill, though, foundered in the House when lawmakers derailed Galvano's attempt to allow local governments to place a minimum seven-day stay on vacation rental homes. We favored Galvano's moderate language to regulate mini-hotels in residential neighborhoods.
Boyd earns big victory
Rep. Jim Boyd served as the House point person on a measure designed to protect Floridians from charities that practice fraud and deception.
The clamp-down comes after the broad abuses among duplicitous so-called charities were exposed in a Tampa Bay Times and Center for Investigative Reporting series of articles, titled "America's Worst Charities."
Boyd's bill increases state oversight of charities and provides more transparency with detailed financial and contact information on a state website. This provides residents with plenty of details to make informed choices and avoid deceptive telemarketers and others.
Kudos to Boyd. His legislation sailed through the House -- and the Senate, too.
Steube not gun-shy
Rep. Greg Steube appears to have focused on gun issues this session with all three of his sponsored bills passing the full House.
Like the 2013 session, his proposal to allow designated school employees to carry concealed weapons on campus as protection from an armed assault earned statewide attention.
The 2014 version smoothed over some concerns with stricter requirements, winning over some former foes.
We still can't support this when the Legislature could fund local law enforcement agencies so highly trained resource officers could be placed in every school.
A companion bill in the Senate failed.
Steube's other gun bills are likely to become law, and neither are very controversial or objectionable.
One authorizes tax collectors to accept applications for licenses to carry concealed firearms or weapons. That will make it easier for Floridians while expanding the already-large number of permits in the state. But people have the right to a license.
The other is a public records exemption on some personal identifying information given to tax collectors on applications for concealed carry licenses. Floridians won't have to fear this information will get into the wrong hands.
Coming this week
A look at legislation with major impacts on Manatee County.