HB 17 targets Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs), calls for more transparency

HB 17 (2018) targets Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs)

This legislation will require community redevelopment agencies (CRAs) to be more transparent and accountable. According to the Liberty First Network, “Under Florida law, local governments can designate areas as Community Redevelopment Areas and create a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). CRA’s are funded by property taxes and are billed as anti-poverty measures. But CRAs are being used to subsidize museums, concert halls, production studios and other pet projects of local political officials. CRAs are now slush funds to reward political donors who fund elected official’s campaigns.”

This video published by “Florida House of Representatives” blasts CRAs. The narrator states, “Ever heard of Community Redevelopment Agencies? Chances are you haven’t, but chances are you’re paying for one. Community Redevelopment Agencies, or CRAs, were meant to pay for cleaning up slums and blighted neighborhoods. Instead they became another vehicle for local governments to take your money and spend it on their pet projects. There are 67 counties in Florida and 224 active CRAs. Some counties like Polk, Miami-Dade and Pinellas have more than ten CRAs. That’s ten entities taking the incremental tax gain by some local governments from the increased value of property in the CRA. Why does this happen? Because CRAs are governed by the same people that create them. 70% of CRAs are governed by a board similar to the local government that oversees them. And it gets worse. In 2015, CRAs in Florida reported $600 million in revenues, over $600 million in expenditures and $715 million in debt. And to make matters worse, during the last ten years, CRAs issued almost $1.4 billion in bonds. And most recent studies can’t even show whether or not the CRAs are working. That’s why your Florida House is introducing legislation again this year to put a stop this. Demanding answers. Requiring reforms…”

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R), who has been known to attack ‘corporate welfare,’ recently published a piece in the Tampa Bay Times, where he says “community redevelopment agencies have to go.” The piece begins by listing a handful of questionable instances, “A mayor who received $84,529 from a side job paid for by taxpayers. A grand jury report stating that government officials were “spending large amounts of taxpayer dollars on what appeared to be pet projects of elected officials.” An inspector general’s report finding over $2 million in questionable expenditures and political cronyism involving a city commissioner. And finally, millions of taxpayer dollars spent and a new FBI investigation under way. If all of this sounds like a John Grisham novel waiting to happen, you’d be right. But unfortunately all of the above is not fiction. It’s all true and sadly, I believe, just the tip of the iceberg…A Miami-Dade grand jury report in 2016 said that the CRA appears to be a fund for pet projects for elected officials and is flirting with “slush fund” status. Head north to Brevard County where Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, and former Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne Beach, exposed a scandal so brazen it put to rest any lingering doubts about the wisdom of eliminating CRAs. Records indicate the mayor of Palm Shores hired herself to administer a local CRA for over 5 years — collecting $84,529. Of course, paid for by the taxpayer. And what political scandal would be complete without a capital city connection. In Tallahassee, the CRA and local developers have come under investigation by the FBI. What makes it all the more ridiculous is that the CRAs are usually miniature versions of county or city commissions…” Read more…

HB 17 “Provides reporting requirements; revises requirements for operating community redevelopment agencies; prohibits creation of community redevelopment agencies after date certain; provides phase-out period; creates criteria for determining whether community redevelopment agency is inactive; provides hearing procedures; authorizes certain financial activity from inactive community redevelopment agencies; revises requirements for use of redevelopment trust fund proceeds; revises county & municipal government reporting requirements; revises criteria for finding that county or municipality failed to file report; requires DFS to provide report to DEO concerning community redevelopment agencies with no revenues, no expenditures, & no debts.



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