Update: Stewardship bill goes to Scott. If the $10 million survives, we know that $5 million of that will go to Monroe County for “land purchases”. The other $5 million is for “water quality projects”. The need is still huge for the sewer projects. Hopefully, those will be the first “water quality projects” in line. If Monroe County was playing games behind the scenes we’ll know it very soon.
The proposal, HB 7071, passed on a 39-0 vote. The measure lowers a legal threshold for prosecution from “with corrupt intent” to “knowingly and intentionally” engaging in a corrupt act.
According to a grand jury report on corruption, this was one of the biggest impediments to prosecuting public officials for corruption.
We have heard testimony that the language and definition of “corruptly” or “with corrupt intent” has limited the effectiveness of Florida’s criminal anti-corruption laws by placing an extra burden beyond the requirement of criminal intent that is standard in criminal offenses. We acknowledge there are cases in which corrupt intent has been found; however, this additional burden requiring a public servant’s intent to be “corrupt” is not necessary. xxi We find that the standard criminal burden of “intentionally” or “knowingly” is sufficient to establish a public servant has acted with scienter (guilty knowledge) as to separate these offenses from an unintentional violation which may be civil.
Monroe County has certainly seen its share of scandals. Maybe this new bill, if it survives the entire process in a usable form, will help discourage certain behavior on the part of some of our shadier public officials. There are definitely situations where corruption is very likely to occur. Perhaps this bill will help folks think twice if a tempting but illegal opportunity comes their way.
The other big news: It looks like the Florida Keys Stewardship Act is going to pass, but with less money than requested. According to one article, the Keys will get “only” $5 million, and in accordance with the Act that is to be used by Monroe County for land purchases. (I say “only” but I am very glad to see funding in any amount!)
Beginning in the 2016-2017 fiscal year and continuing through the 2026-2027 fiscal year, at least $5 million of the funds allocated pursuant to this paragraph shall be spent on land acquisition within the Florida Keys Area of Critical State Concern.
According to another, there’s $10 million for the Keys – $5 million for land purchases, another $5 million is for “water quality”, which appears to mean that the entities will get a bit of money for their sewer projects. So that’s good. Unfortunately, most of the money will go to Monroe County, and we know what happens then – it won’t go very far and the county will soon have their hands out once again. The other entities can be counted on to spend state money wisely, but they’re not getting very much.
Getting the Act passed is a huge accomplishment. Rep. Raschein, her team, and all the entities (even Monroe County) are to be congratulated. As a taxpayer, I am very thankful for everyone’s efforts (yes, even the county).
But if the Florida Keys are going to have a sustainable financial future, its time to clean house. The current Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) has presided over the disastrous Cudjoe Regional project. Not only is Cudjoe Regional $49 million over budget, but it spawned numerous lawsuits involving state agencies. In other words, Cudjoe Regional is on the state’s radar and not in a good way. No matter how much finger-pointing they do, that is all the BOCC’s doing. Worst of all, this reflects badly on the other entities of the keys – who have worked hard to control costs and address their customers’ concerns honestly.
Cudjoe Regional is not the BOCC’s only failure. The county now has a slate of projects that are $38 million over budget. They started out at $25 million and they now cost $63 million. There is no way that state money is going to keep up with the BOCC’s spending habits. Frankly, the taxpayers can’t do it either, but the BOCC certainly doesn’t care about that. They’ll keep tightening the screws.
The three very worst of the county commissioners are up for re-election. Only one has a challenger so far. That would be Sylvia Murphy. In fact, Murphy is the only one who’s filed to run. Perhaps Carruthers and Kolhage will do us the kindness of bowing out. I wouldn’t count on it though. They haven’t picked us clean quite yet. You should check out their candidate pages for the 2012 election. They’re real comedians those two. Carruthers speaks of her “actions to protect animals” and Kolhage claims to “support conservative fiscal policies”.
Bottom line, it’s up to Monroe County voters to put their own house in order. The state cannot and will not come to their rescue.