BRADENTON BEACH – Protecting home rule rights will be the city commission’s top priority during the state legislative session that convenes on March 5.
Home rule rights and the ability to self-govern at the local level were already a top priority before Bradenton-based State Rep. Will Robinson Jr. and the Manatee County legislative delegation announced their shared desire to preempt home rule rights at the state level so Manatee County can build a public parking garage in Holmes Beach. The delegation, which also includes Republican state senators Jim Boyd and Joe Gruters and state representatives Tommy Gregory and Mike Beltran, are also requesting a state-funded study regarding the potential dissolution or consolidation of the three Island cities.
During the Bradenton Beach Commission’s Jan. 19 meeting, commissioners unanimously agreed that fighting the state legislators’ latest efforts to eliminate the city’s home rule rights would be a top priority for the city and its contracted lobbyist, Dave Ramba.
Prior to the meeting, Mayor John Chappie provided the commissioners with a two-page list that detailed the commission’s 2023 legislative priorities. The list was prepared before Robinson and his fellow state legislators expressed their intentions regarding home rule rights and the potential consolidation or elimination of the three Island cities.
According to the priorities list, “Home rule is why no two cities are alike. Intrusion on home rule from the state or federal government undermines the constitutional right of citizens to govern themselves.”
During the Jan. 19 meeting, City Attorney Ricinda Perry said, “There have been two additions I think the city should implement into this based on the Manatee County delegation meeting: The elimination or consolidation of the Island cities as well as the usurpation of home rule authority on height restrictions for parking garages.”
Chappie then said, “I totally agree. I had a discussion with Rep. Robinson. I voiced my concerns and disappointment and he told me his reasoning, which I disagree with. It is concerning. It is disappointing. As I told our representative, government’s supposed to work from the bottom up, not from the top down. This is local stuff. This isn’t even really party politics, it’s about the best type of governance that they think would be best for us. Who do they think they are?” Chappie said.
“Yes, we depend on the state and federal governments for certain things, but we’re responsible at the local level for health, safety and welfare. If we need something, we go to our legislators. That’s not what happened in this case and it’s a state of affairs. The three Island cities are going to be working together to correct this injustice,” Chappie said.
Chappie said he was meeting with Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth the following day. He also said that Perry will work with the Florida League of Cities on these legislative concerns.
Commissioner Ralph Cole said state legislators should focus their efforts on providing state funds for undergrounding utility lines, adding and improving sidewalks and other projects that benefit local communities.
Cole questioned whether a state pre-emption that allows parking garages to exceed city-specific building heights would then lead to the construction of other high-rise structures. He also said Manatee County needs to finish the drainage improvement project at Coquina Beach that’s temporarily reduced parking for beachgoers.
Commissioner Jake Spooner said state legislators should focus more on undergrounding projects, stormwater and drainage improvements and other infrastructure improvements.
Another home rule-related legislative priority pertains to the continued local regulation of short-term vacation rentals. The city commission supports legislation that repeals the state preemption of the local regulation of short-term rental properties.
“Please reject efforts to restrict our abilities to locally respond to the needs of our community,” the priorities list says.
The commission supports property insurance reform that would address increasing insurance rates, claim duration processes, policy cancellations and benefits assignments.
Commissioners also support the expanded use of Manatee County’s 5% tourist development tax – much of which is generated by lodging establishments on Anna Maria Island. The priorities list notes Bradenton Beach has a resident population of approximately 1,200 people, but during weekends, holidays, peak tourist periods and busy beach days, more than 30,000 people occupy the city at any given time. The commission supports legislation to expand the use of those restricted tourist development tax revenues to also help fund additional policing services and infrastructure improvements.
The commission supports the preservation of the communication services tax and the local business tax and opposes legislation that modifies, restricts or eliminates municipalities’ authority to levy or collect those tax revenues that help fund city services.
The commission also supports legislation that provides recurring funding sources for programs and projects that preserve and enhance water quality and/or mitigate the negative environmental and economic impacts of red tide and other harmful algae blooms that threaten public waterways.
The commission unanimously approved the revised legislative priorities list that now includes the commission’s opposition to the legislative actions proposed by Robinson and the Manatee County legislative delegation.