Palm Beach County’s legislative wish list includes gun, sober house regulation

By Jennifer Sorentrue – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Palm Beach County lobbyists would urge state lawmakers to set aside more than $124 million for environmental projects, allow local governments to enact their own gun regulations, and oppose gambling legislation that puts the Palm Beach Kennel Club at a competitive disadvantage, under a priority list set to be considered by county commissioners on Tuesday.

The 39-page list includes more 60 of the county’s top priorities for the legislative session that begins in March. Although county lobbyists have already been working on many of the issues, administrators ask the commission to sign off on the list each year before the start of the spring session in Tallahassee.

“We have been moving on a lot of these issues already,” said Todd Bonlarron, the county’s legislative affairs director. “There is a lot of movement up there already.”

Under the plan, the county’s lobbying team would oppose legislation that would give pari-mutuel facilities in Broward and Miami-Dade counties an advantage over the Palm Beach Kennel Club. The county argues that the legislation that prevents the kennel club from competition with facilities to the south is unfair and could harm the local economy.

The kennel club employs more than 600 people and attracts 750,000 visitors a year, the county said.

The county will also push to regain the ability to enact local gun regulations. In 2011, state lawmakers approved a law that forced the county to repeal several local restrictions on guns and ammunition and would have elected local officials face $5,000 fines and removal from office if they pass gun laws stricter than state laws.

Also on the county’s priority lists: a series of economic development and water improvement projects in the struggling cities around Lake Okeechobee. They include $1 million for water main improvements, money for road repairs and paving projects, and the redevelopment of the state-owned Glades Correctional Institute site.

“We are going to try to do whatever we can to help out in the Glades,” Bonlarron said.

The county also plans to support new laws that would define and establish regulations for sober homes and their owners and operators. A majority of them in the county are privately owned and there is little government oversight, Bonlarron said.

“They are not documented and they aren’t regulated,” Bonlarron said. “There is a lot of concern about the proliferation of those in Palm Beach County.”

County Mayor Steven Abrams said money to bring “quiet zones” to the FEC railroad tracks topped his priority list. The Florida East Coast Industries-owned railroad is planned as a three-hour express passenger service from Miami to Orlando, with stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

“This is going to provide a regional transportation improvement,” Abrams said. “It is certainly not related to one city or one county.”

Lake Worth resident Pam Bergsma said she plans to return to Tallahassee this session to push for a bill that would require eye exams for infants. The bill would require a hospital to give eye-dilation drops and ophthalmoscope exams to babies born there before they go home and at their 6- to 8-week and 6- to 9-month well-baby exams.

Bergsma says the procedure would have saved her grandson, Joey. He died in 2000 from a eye cancer, called retinoblastoma, because it wasn’t detected early enough. He was 3.

The Infant Eye Care Bill (nicknamed “Joey’s Bill”) was first heard in the 2002 legislative session. But it has never been approved by state lawmakers.

Bergsma said she remains hopeful that it will eventually be approved.

The county’s lobbying team has also pushed for the legislation. The issue is on the county’s priority list again this year.

“It is about making sure every child has the best sight possible,” Bergsma said. “Joey was a special gift. I know someday his message will be heard.”

Legislative priorities

Here are some of Palm Beach County’s top priorities for the session that begins in March:

* $100 million for Everglades restoration projects.

* $16.9 million for beach renourishment, restoration and inlet management projects.

* $2 million for projects to improve the Lake Worth Lagoon.

* $1 million for water main improvements in the cities around Lake Okeechobee.

* Preventing gambling legislation that would put the Palm Beach County Kennel Club at a competitive disadvantage.

* Seeking money to provide safety measures and quiet zones for passenger rail service on the FEC tracks.

* Passing legislation that defines and establishes regulations for sober homes.

* Passing legislation that allows counties to pass their own gun regulations.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: