It’s not a law yet, but HB-7023, introduced by St Johns County State Representative Travis Hutson, would exempt new developments from concurrency fees, one of many provisions in a large economic development package that passed the House Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee yesterday.
Detractors of the Bill say that the exemption does two harmful things — it diminishes “home rule” decision-making by mandating fee exemption for new developments of 6,000 square feet or less; and, for those developments, local governments would lose the revenue they have earmarked for the cost of expanded roads made necessary by the increased use of development.
“It alleviates over-burdensome concurrency requirements for truly small businesses,” Hutson told reporters. “I think it’s important that we want to be business friendly in our state.”
A similar bill is moving through the Senate, SB-1634, but not all of the provisions in each chamber match each other. The Senate version does not have the new development exemption for road fees.
In response to criticism, Hutson pointed out that the House version of the Bill would allow local governments to override exemptions by a simple majority vote of the local Board of County Commissioners and would only apply to new applications for comparatively small development.
“To me it’s taking away home rule,” said Rep. Kathleen Peters, a Republican and former mayor of South Pasadena who sits on the committee with Hutson. “Cities are working really hard to use that as an economic development tool.”
Hutson says the intent of the Bill is to encourage a “business-friendly, developer-friendly environment in the state”.
Other items in the House version; requires the state’s aerospace economic development agency, Space Florida, to consult with VISIT Florida, the public-private promoter of the tourism industry. Also sets up a program to help funnel federal community development block grants from the Department of Economic Opportunity to local governments, makes permanent a temporary payment plan, set to expire this year, allowing businesses to pay unemployment taxes quarterly instead of in one annual lump sum, and imposes more reporting requirements on the Black Business Loan Program that provides loans to minority businesses.
The Senate version; would require Space Florida to consult with the Florida Tourism Industry Marketing Corp., a privately held company. It would also remove the requirement that unemployment benefits claimants take an initial skills review before receiving benefits – which is not part of the House version – but does not contain the permanent extension of the unemployment tax payment plan or impact fees exemption.