Here we go again, another government agency using taxpayer dollars to reward political donors and further the careers of politicians. We have written about the abuse of Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida for using taxpayer dollars for very questionable expenditures. At the end of the special session last month, Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida survived but now are under extensive legislative oversight.
Just like Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, Community Redevelopment Agencies are coming under needed scrutiny for their questionable spending. Under Florida law, local governments can designate areas as Community Redevelopment Areas and create a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).
CRAs are funded by property taxes and are charged with helping blighted neighborhoods. While the mission of a CRA is billed as anti-poverty measures, CRAs have been used to subsidize museums, concert halls, production studios and other pet projects of local political officials. CRAs are no longer being used for anti-poverty measures, but are now slush funds to reward political donors who fund elected official’s campaigns.
In 2016, a Miami-Dade County Grand Jury reported several abuses of a local CRA.
The report showed several examples of CRA boards spending large amounts of taxpayer dollars on what appeared to be pet projects of the elected officials.
The FBI is now investigating the CRA within the city of Tallahassee.
The FBI, in two subpoenas dated June 14, demanded the city and the CRA turn over all documents, records, bids, applications or proposals since April 2012 involving eight local business people and more than a dozen of their corporate entities.
In response to the blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars and possible corruption, Senator Tom Lee and Representative Jake Raburn filed bills (SB 1770/HB 13) to address the abuse and would have created much more transparency and oversight of CRAs.
But, just like so many good bills this past session, the House passed HB 13 and sent it over to the Senate where it would die.
This bill, along with repealing red-light cameras, protecting direct primary care agreements to get government out our healthcare, allowing craft breweries the freedom to sell their own products, all died in the Senate. You are probably seeing a pattern; the Senate is the place where freedom goes to die. The Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties are a powerful lobbying group that seek to protect local politicians and their ability to operate in the shadows. Special interest groups like this find it easier to win battles in the Senate, where there are only 40 members to influence. Basically, they just need to influence 20 Senators to stop good legislation, whereas they would need 60 in the House made up of 120 members. Bills must get 50% plus one to pass either chamber.
At Liberty First Network, we are constantly adding more tools to fight the special interest groups. Check out our “texting service” to mobilize district constituents to contact their legislator. We have updated our “legislative ticker” to make it easy for you to stay on top of important bills as they move through the legislative process.
The fight for liberty will never be easy, but we are seeing progress and now is not the time to give up, but to double down. Our goal every day at Liberty First Network is to find the best tools and techniques to defend liberty. Our knowledge becomes a force multiplier when you partner with us.
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