Florida’s proposed state budget could affect counties

From restricting the right to abortion to allowing residents to carry concealed firearms without permits to requiring most businesses to verify that employees are legal residents, Florida lawmakers wrapped up one of their most controversial and crowded legislative sessions this month. of the last years.

But state legislators also passed other, less publicized laws, a total of 356 bills and a record $117 billion budget, many of which could have a significant impact on Central Florida counties.

Kelley Teague, Orange County legislative affairs director, described the session as “challenging for local governments” because many of the bills that passed in both houses of the Florida Legislature eroded “home rule,” the autonomy for govern and regulate locally.

In Seminole County, for example, officials raised concerns about the Live Local Act, a $711 million effort to build more affordable housing across the state, saying it could lead to high-rise apartment complexes within the Area. Wekiva River Protection Area protected and designated technology corridors.

Under a law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 29 and effective July 1, a county must approve a multi-family development, such as an apartment building, in an area already zoned for commercial, industrial, or mixed use. if at least 40% of the units are defined as affordable per state guidelines.

A county also may not restrict the density or height of the proposed building below the tallest building, or three stories, within one mile of the proposed development, regardless of current county regulations.

Orange County leaders are concerned that the law could interfere with the proposed land use plan, Vision 2050.

The law also prohibits local governments from imposing rent control measures such as the 10% cap on rent increases that nearly 60% of Orange County voters supported in last November’s election.

In Seminole, the county currently has regulations against high-density development within its Wekiva River Protection Area, which stretches around the river designated as “outstanding Florida water” by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Kayakers paddle along the Wekiva River, not far from Wekiva Island, on February 1, 2018. Owners Bill and Mary Sue Weinaug have plans to add a restaurant, tent, pavilion and home for a security guard at his Wekiva Island entertainment complex.  (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel)
Kayakers paddle along the Wekiva River, not far from Wekiva Island, on Feb. 1, 2018. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel)

“It’s not a bad bill, but they need to review it,” said Tricia Johnson, Seminole County deputy director of the Live Local Act. “The Legislature did not take into consideration the areas that are protected.”

Seminole Commissioner Lee Constantine, who is also president of the Florida Association of Counties, agreed, adding that the Live Local Act “could have potential unintended consequences” for local governments across the state when it comes to controlling the development.

A developer, for example, could apply to build a high-rise apartment building with affordable units near the Altamonte Mall, which is less than a mile from the 18-story Majesty Building, officials said. Or someone might apply to build an apartment complex in areas that a local government has already designated for high-tech growth, such as portions of the Seminole International Parkway corridor.

“That’s why this needs to be developed,” Constantine said.

Oscar Anderson of The Southern Group, a Seminole lobbyist, said he expects the Legislature to make some changes to the Live Local Act in next year’s session.

“There are a lot of challenges with that,” he said. “We fully anticipate that there will be some adjustments and security measures… in the next session.”

Seminole officials also raised concerns about a bill awaiting DeSantis’ approval that increases the amount Seminole must contribute to the Florida Retirement System by $7 million to $42 million.

“That’s nothing to sneeze at,” Constantine said of the additional amount. “That’s something we didn’t plan on.”

Seminole also anticipates receiving $1 million of the state’s proposed budget to help pay for the conversion of hundreds of homes near the Wekiva River in West Seminole from septic tanks to sewer lines. The county is also allocated $1 million for stormwater drainage improvements in the historic black community of Midway.

“Overall, it was a very busy year,” Anderson said of this year’s legislative session. “There were probably more protests than I’ve ever seen at the Capitol building and more money in the budget than we’ve ever seen. So it sums up the year.”

In Osceola County, officials expressed gratitude for the investment of approximately $4 billion in transportation funds from DeSantis’ Moving Florida Forward infrastructure initiative. The initiative aims to speed up transportation projects over the next four years to alleviate congestion, a factor many Osceola County residents often express concern about.

The bill passed by the legislature will fund and accelerate multiple projects across the state; the three largest are in Osceola County. Interstate 4 from Champions Gate to Osceola Parkway will get a $1.45 billion investment; a Poinciana Parkway extension connector from County Road 532 to State Road 429 received $1.318 billion; and I-4 from US 27 to Champions Gate received $635 million in funding.

Another victory for county officials was receiving $1.8 million for Buenaventura Lakes stormwater improvements from the General Appropriations Act. Buenaventura Lakes suffered massive flooding during Hurricane Ian and this drainage improvement project was a top priority for county officials.

In Osceola County, the Live Local Act left commissioners at a recent workshop with many unanswered questions.

Commission Chair Viviana Janer asked county staff to further explore how the Live Local Act will impact the commission’s authority.

The law awarded more than $8 million in State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program funds to the county, St. Cloud and Kissimmee. SHIP funding provides funds to local governments as an incentive to produce and preserve affordable housing.

Janer said that certain districts have many planned developments in commercial and industrial areas that would be forced under this law to build affordable housing in their place.

“It’s not that we don’t need affordable housing, but we have a set language for a reason,” Janer said.

She asked county staff to investigate whether planned commercial or industrial development could be allowed in lieu of affordable housing in certain districts.

Janer said she wants clarification on the definition of what the state considers affordable housing and is concerned that projects deemed affordable won’t stay affordable for long.

“This is a crucial issue,” Janer said.

State and federal legislators representing Osceola County will continue to discuss the legislative impact Wednesday at Osceola Update 2023, hosted by the Osceola Chamber of Commerce.

As Orange County grapples with an affordable housing crisis and other issues, Mayor Jerry Demings said that “local authority erosion and preemption does not work in the best interests of citizens in the long run.”

Their concerns were echoed by Commissioner Nicole Wilson, whose West Orange district includes 25,000 acres owned by the Walt Disney Co., which had largely been self-governing its properties for 56 years until a company executive criticized legislation that prohibits classroom instruction or discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity.

She described the Legislature’s actions to limit Disney’s autonomy as “retaliation.”

“I always say that the most dangerous season in Florida is not hurricane season, it is legislative season and it continues to be that way,” Wilson said.

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