County opposes state control of RESTORE funds

Commissioners Cheryl Sanders, left, and Noah Lockley at Monday’s special meeting. Photo available for purchase

Commissioners Cheryl Sanders, left, and Noah Lockley at Monday’s special meeting.

David Adlerstein
Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 09:43 AM.

After several Panhandle county commissions, including Franklin’s, voiced strong opposition, members of a state Senate panel have adjusted legislation that some feared would allow Tallahassee to dictate how counties’ RESTORE Act money would be spent.

The adjustments were approved with only one dissenting vote at Tuesday’s Appropriations Committee and largely satisfied concerns over an amendment to a state Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) bill, SB 1024, that was added Friday. That amendment would create a quasi-public corporation and empower it to manage 75 percent of all dollars the state attorney general gets for economic loss Florida suffered from the oil spill.

Franklin County Commissioner Pinki Jackel was joined by representatives from Escambia and Wakulla counties in speaking at the Appropriations meeting against state control of RESTORE Act funds.

County commissioners voted unanimously at a Monday special meeting to send Jackel to Tallahassee, after a firestorm brewed over the proposed amendment, and its possible implications.

“This amendment sets criteria for projects, focusing on economic issues,” said Chairman Cheryl Sanders at the special meeting, held in the main courtroom of the county courthouse. “A non-elected board chooses the projects. That’s what my problem is with this.”

Commissioner Noah Lockley was more blunt, criticizing the 11th-hour change to the bill. “They wait to the last minute,” he said. “It’s crooked.”

The legislation, as it currently is designed, would create a quasi-public corporation that would handle the money the state receives from litigation against BP and Halliburton. On Saturday, Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a lawsuit seeking $5.5 billion from those companies for revenue the state lost due to the oil spill.

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