Legislative Affairs Director Todd Bonlarron outlined Palm Beach County’s list of legislative priorities for the upcoming session in Tallahassee at Tuesday’s meeting of the Palm Beach County Commission.
“We’ve separated our agenda this year into two parts, because we feel the issues regarding environment and water are going to play such a key and central role that we didn’t want to confuse it within the other agenda,” Bonlarron said.
Among the proposed priorities for economic development are Glades regional initiatives, including new requests for improvements at the Pahokee Marina and the Boys & Girls Club, and continuation of road funding; a film and television incentive that Mayor Shelley Vana has been working on; and financing for the Scripps Research Institute and Max Planck, both of which were successful in receiving state funding last year.
Under transportation and area flood protection, the legislative team is looking to build on $4 million the county previously received to build up the dike separating the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area from The Acreage.
“We’re working with the [South Florida] Water Management District on continuation of the remaining $4 million for that project,” Bonlarron said.
Under growth management, the team is working on language regarding home rule authority of local governments and their ability to have complete control over zoning issues, asking the legislature not to take any of those abilities away.
On public safety, he said the sober homes issue will continue to be pursued so local governments can have some control over them. The county will also continue to pursue mental health and substance abuse financing.
Bonlarron said Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue has asked the county to pursue funding for a fall prevention program, which is one of the leading causes of injuries, and for the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in newly constructed homes.
On the topic of domestic violence, Bonlarron’s office is working for court-ordered intervention for perpetrators, which has been modeled after other successful programs. They also are seeking $200,000 to go toward enhanced lighting in high-crime areas.
In health and human services, the county aims to continue the fight against homelessness working through the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation to fill a $3.2 million child welfare gap for ChildNet, a local provider of foster care. They also are working to increase adoptive rights for the grandparents of children whose parents are no longer able to care for them.
In education, county priorities include an application for continued public education capital outlay (PECO) financing for Palm Beach State College, which recently broke ground in Loxahatchee Groves for its fifth campus, as well as funding for the school district’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.
Bonlarron’s office is also working on a local bill that will allow schools to continue to display advertising on their athletic fields to support extracurricular activities, and applying for additional cultural and arts programs.
“We had such a successful year last year in the many different cultural and museum grant programs to support our cultural arts community on getting those dollars from Tallahassee,” Bonlarron said.
Another initiative is working with private-sector stakeholders on quality economic development solutions for businesses looking to expand in the county, specifically allowing flexibility in mitigation credits.
Palm Beach County Water Utilities Policy and Legislation Manager Chris Pettit said the legislative agenda includes several environmental priorities.
“Welcome to the year of water, as it’s being declared,” Pettit said. “We’re looking to continue the successful efforts that we’ve had on a number of appropriation items, including the lake region water infrastructure.”
Pettit said he is also working with the county’s Department of Environmental Resources Management for continued progress on the Lake Worth Lagoon initiative and beach restoration funding.
Another priority is adopting the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact with Broward and Miami-Dade counties to include support for solar and other renewable energy programs.
Pettit pointed out that Amendment 1 passed, which will make additional money available to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.
“There’s going to be some very interesting conversations up in Tallahassee as to how that money is going to be spent and distributed, so we are going to be monitoring the issue and making sure that you are aware of how things are going,” he said.
ABOVE: Legislative Affairs Director Todd Bonlarron.