By Kevin Crowder, CEcD, Director of Economic Development
The Florida Legislative Session is now in its 8th week and is scheduled to complete all business on March 9, 2018. The two bills that deal with Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs), House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 432, have continued to progress. The House of Representatives approved House Bill 17 on January 24, by a vote of 72-32. The bill has now been sent to and received by the Florida Senate. The Senate Bill was passed by its first committee of reference but has not been heard in its additional committees. However, now that the Senate has received the House Bill, that bill may be heard and/or amended by the Senate, or it may become the subject of negotiation and trading between the two chambers prior to the end of the Session.
Although both bills contain provisions that are positive, including improvements regarding ethics training and accountability, unfortunately there are still some problems with the legislation. These include a provision that new CRAs must be created by a special act of the Legislature rather than by the local governing body. Local elected officials are by far in the best position to determine local redevelopment needs and guide the creation and implementation of programs for redevelopment and revitalization.
The legislation also requires a cap on administrative expenses. This is a challenging issue due to the different sizes of CRA budgets throughout Florida. There are also restrictions on CRA expenditures, and on those items that a CRA may and may not spend redevelopment funds on. According to the position of the Florida Redevelopment Association, “What may be right for a CRA designed to address housing needs would be very different for a CRA designed to rejuvenate a working waterfront. To artificially and randomly limit expenditures, given the incredibly inclusive nature of the process for creating redevelopment plans, is to significantly hinder the effectiveness of these agencies in completing their individual missions.”
The Florida Legislature has many important issues to work on during the last two weeks of session, including casino gambling, school safety, medical marijuana, education, economic development and finishing the state budget. Anyone that is interested and supports CRAs should continue to communicate with your legislators that CRAs are important revitalization and economic development tools which have had proven success due to their local governance and ability to respond to unique local conditions. Each person’s voice matters to help shape what’s next for Florida CRAs.