Florida DCA’s Pelham says bill would tie agencies’ hands

Florida Department of Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham on Friday joined critics in saying that a House bill now before the governor would severely hamper state agency rule-making.

HB 1565 would require agencies to receive approval by the Legislature for proposed rules that would cost businesses or affect economic growth in excess of $1 million. The bill passed the House and Senate without opposition and had support from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida League of Cities. Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary and sponsor of HB 1565, said the bill would protect people and small business owners. But environmental groups and the St. Johns River Water Management District staff are asking Gov. Charlie Crist to veto the measure.

Pelham said Friday that the bill represents a violation of the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. He said the bill could prevent DCA from adopting rules on growth that would limit greenhouse gas emissions as required by a 2008 state law. The bill also could prevent DCA from adopting a rule requiring that cities and counties demonstrate the need for new development based on population growth estimates.

“We have great concerns about it,” Pelham said of the bill. “It would greatly complicate the rule-making process, make it a lot longer more expensive and would really tie the hands of agencies in fulfilling their responsibilities to protect the public interest.”

The Florida League of Cities said the bill would help prevent unfunded mandates on local government from state agencies. The Florida Chamber of Commerce contends that the bill could increase transparency and public participation in the rule-making process, said Adam Babington, the chamber’s director of governmental affairs.

But Pelham said the bill could create more regulatory uncertainty for businesses and cause some of them to spend more to hire experts to challenge estimated cost statements that would be required by agencies issuing rules. And Pelham, an attorney, said there is case law to suggest that the bill is an unconstitutional infringement on the separation of powers. “If the Legislature doesn’t like the way the agency has written the rules, it can amend the statute,” Pelham said.

Audubon of Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida and the St. Johns Riverkeeper have asked Crist to veto the bill. Pelham said his role is to point out the problems with the bill, not tell the governor whether to veto it. Crist has until May 28 to take action.

(Story provided by The Florida Tribune. Copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting brucebritchie@gmail.com.)