Local Govts. sue over growth-management bill

07/09/09 Mitch E. Perry
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A group of local governments is suing Charlie Crist and the state legislature over Senate Bill 360, the controversial growth management bill signed by the Governor last month.

The new law exempts builders from having to widen roads to accommodate traffic from new construction and eliminates the review process for some large developments. Environmentalists have called the bill a gift to developers.

But the lawsuit doesn’t touch on the merits of the legislation. Instead, it focuses on its constitutionality.

Jamie Cole is the attorney leading the suit on behalf of the Broward County city of Weston, and 7 other local governments.

He said the bill breaks the ‘single subject rule’ by adding language about security cameras at private businesses and affordable housing to its growth management provisions. Secondly, Cole says the bill violates the ‘unfunded mandate’ provision.

Denise Layne is with the group Citizens For Responsible Growth. She lobbied against the bill during the session, and said there were always concerns about the law being an unfunded mandate.

Attorney Jamie Cole said he, as well as the City Manager of Weston, worked on getting other local governments to join in on the lawsuit.

Locally, members of the Hillsborough County Commission did sign a letter to Governor Crist, urging him to veto the bill. Commissioner Mark Sharpe led the effort to write that letter to the Governor. He said he is very interested in joining in on the lawsuit.

Some local environmentalists were upset that Hillsborough County’s lobbyists didn’t fight hard enough against Senate Bill 360.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe said part of the problem is institutional – the leadership in Tallahassee at times isn’t in synch with local governments on a major issue like growth management.

Environmental activist and lobbyist Dee Dee Layne said she sympathizes with the Hillsborough County Lobbyists. She says they can only take directions from the leaders in the County Government, and wants to know who was directing them to take a ‘hands off approach’ to SB 360 until the end.

Layne says that many organizations were for SB 360, before they were against it. Attorney Jamie Cole has asked for an expedited hearing. If granted, he says a ruling could come down within a few months time.

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