Commissioner Stuart’s March Message
As we surpass the one-year anniversary since COVID-19 put our lives and our businesses on lockdown in March 2020, we continue to adapt to what seems like ever-changing information being delivered at lightning speed. The lingering effects the past 12 months have had on individuals and businesses across our nation and certainly across our city have been far reaching. Solutions must be attained through ideas and innovations brought forward at the local, state, and federal government levels. With this in mind, I wanted to bring to your attention a few updates on what is happening and also encourage you to get involved.
Here in Orlando, our City Council recently approved an amendment to the Business Tax Receipt (BTR) requirements, which allows for the waiver of the $250 late fee for businesses that have not paid their BTR renewal in a timely manner. Also in February, the City approved more than $150,000 in rental assistance to downtown businesses, utilizing money levied through the Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency.
On a state level, this year’s Legislative Session begins on March 2nd and lasts 60 days. In that time frame, the Florida Senate (flsenate.gov) and House (myfloridahouse.gov) are required to pass the annual state budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which begins on July 1st. Governor DeSantis’ budget proposal includes $96.6 billion dollars in spending and serves as a starting point for budget negotiations as the Florida Legislature works toward a final budget plan that must be passed prior to the session concluding. One of the major debates will center around education funding since more than 88,000 former public school students did not enroll as expected this school year and historically much of the K-12 education funding is disseminated on a per-pupil spending calculation.
On a federal level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released an Order that may stop landlords from evicting some tenants through the end of March. The order does not automatically protect tenants, and action from the tenant is required. Tenants must meet the eligibility criteria and deliver a signed CDC Declaration form to their landlord to be protected. Visit cdc.gov/coronavirus to obtain the form. Further, the Federal Government announced that in addition to current locations, they are opening one of four federal vaccination hubs in Florida right here in Orange County at the Valencia College West Campus. More details can be found at myvaccine.fl.gov.
As we consider all levels of government, one issue that is integral to our quality of life is Home Rule. Since 1968, Floridians have recognized the need for cities to have Home Rule powers. Under the widespread belief that those elected officials closest to the people can make the most educated decisions on their behalf, it was voted to be included in our state’s Constitution (Article VIII, Section 2(b)), and was implemented by the State Legislature in 1973. Home Rule is a cherished concept, supported by an overwhelming majority of Florida citizens. It is the foundation for local governments as they create fair, effective, and responsive policies for their communities, since there is not always a one-size fits all solution for every part of our great state.
Home Rule allows citizens the most input on issues directly affecting their way of life. It is important, because it means that decisions for your city are made by a group of elected officials who all love it enough to live there.
The State Legislature seems dead set on changing that.
In the past three years, the Florida Legislature has filed more than 100 bills that have tried to strip away local authority. In some cases, they have been successful.
Doing this makes access to services more difficult. Imagine needing to contact your state representative for neighborhood issues like tree removal, or when your next door neighbor decides to utilize his home as a full-time auto repair shop, and the State of Florida puts a law in place that says his right to run a business eclipses your rights to a certain quality of life in a single family neighborhood. So when his business brings cars parked all over his front lawn up on cinderblocks, you would want to call your city to provide some guidance and oversight on what is enough and what is too much… but the State of Florida has usurped the local government from regulating home-based businesses in any manner (this is actually the subject of two bills filed this session). Ask yourself this: is it easier to be heard at your local municipal council meeting or in front of the session of the Florida House of Representatives?
With issues ranging from transportation to growth management and zoning, residents in Miami may have different priorities than the citizens of Deland. This is why it’s important to stay informed and know what’s going on at all levels of government. You can make your voice heard and stay educated by visiting buildingstrongercities.com. Text the words “Home Rule” to 50457 to receive information on how you can easily get involved from the comfort of your own device.by