Florida Legislature Attacks Local Control Over Tampa Bay Transit Planning

Over the weekend Sen Jack Latvala & Rep Dan Raulerson filed SB 1672 and HB 1243 respectively. The bills are is supposed to be about transit but turns out to be another Tallahassee power grab.

Yes, it pushes for creating a regional transit plan and list of transit priority projects — which is great.

But that is where the good ends. Most of the changes consist of changes to the composition of the board to remove local input and increase Tallahasse’s power over transit projects. It does this by the following changes to the board:

- It eliminates 3 members of the board from urban areas like Tampa and St Pete

- It adds four appointments for State legislative leadership

- Increases Tallahassee appointments from 27% of the board to 54% of the board.

- It forces the chair to be one of the four legislative appointees

- It makes it likely the majority of the board majority is not elected official (If HART & PSTA don’t select elected officials or governor appointees)

- It gives Pinellas and Pasco County 1 rep for every 450,000 citizens but Hillsborough County would only have one rep for every 680,000 citizens.

- If the board is not changes that will shift to Hillsborough having half the board members by population as Pinellas.

- It eliminates the requirement to have a Citizen Advisory Board

- Finally it makes the new TBARTA “the recipient” of federal funds for any transit project that crosses county lines or has “regional significance” even if it is local wholly within a single County.

That last part is significant when you take all the other changes together. It means that this Tallahasse dominated board will try and claim that HART, PSTA, Tampa, St Pete or others can’t use federal funds for signifciant transit projects unless it goes through their board. Federal law would likely prevent them from doing so, but they are doing everything they can to make it harder.

There is no question all of the legislators in Hillsborough County should oppose this plan as any regional organization that will build and operate transit should be weighted by population. Pasco and Manatee should also think twice as they could end up on the wrong end of this board as well. And for Pinellas legislators: it may look great now, but fair respresnetaiton will alway make regional cooperation more likely.

This power grab is also unacceptable to anyone that wants our communities to work together. Call your Representatives and Senators and let them know not to eliminate urban representatives, cap the Tallahasse appointments to 3, allow them to elect their own chair, and keep the citizens advisory board.

That way you can change the composition, change the focus, require the Regional Transit Development Plan, and still keep local control over local planning. That would be a decent bill, this power grab is not it.

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