County legislative delegaton to continue push for state control of Vero Electric

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Indian River County Legislative Delegation met Friday and voted to continue support of a state bill that would put Vero Electric into control of the Public Service Commission.

The Indian River County delegation will be led by Representative Debbie Mayfield, who was chairperson of the meeting, and includes Senate President Mike Haridopolos, one of the most powerful legislators in the state. Also on the panel are Senator Joe Negron and newly-elected Representative Tom Goodson. Among the bills the delegation passed 4-0 was to continue to pursue putting the Vero Beach electric utility under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission. Rep. Mayfield will introduce the bill, saying that while she recognized the new Vero Beach City Council is actively pursuing a possible sale of the power plant to Florida Power and Light, she thinks it is important to push forward with the legislation in case a deal cannot be struck.

“I am encouraged that the new city council is on board with the goal of selling the utility to Florida Power and Light,” Mayfield said. “In the meantime I would like to go forward with this bill and let people know we realize this is still an issue.”

Proponents of selling Vero Beach Electric say it would bring lower rates for customers, who reside both inside and outside of the city limits.

The delegation also heard from County Commissioner Bob Solari, who asked that the Florida Legislature consider curtailing unfunded mandates in the form of required payouts and unnecessary reports and meetings during the session to help a county budget already strained from declining revenues.

“Complying with regulations is one of the greatest burdens facing our citizens and businesses,” he said. “If the cost could be adequately computed it would be much greater than the cost of feeding and clothing a family for a year.”

Commissioner Peter O’Bryan asked for the delegation bring to state lawmakers legislation to revamp the Florida Retirement System, noting that state employees do not pay into the system as is the case with most private businesses. He asked the delegation to consider that going forward with any new hires the state utilize a 401-k type program used by the private sector with employee contributions, rather than using state funding for employee pensions.

O’Bryan also asked for a ban of state employees spiking their final retirement payout by adding in un-accrued vacation and sick time into their final calculation.

Among other items brought up:

–Breaking down Truth in Millage statements to include payouts to individual constitutional officers. Budget Director Jason Brown said 65 percent of the county budget is mandated to pay for the constitutional offices of Sheriff, Tax Collector, County Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections and the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

–Returning some funds the county collects and turns over to Community Redevelopment Agencies back to the county to cover expenses.

–Having a state-wide solution to the problem of pain management clinics, which currently are banned in the county by a moratorium that will end next June.

–Help provide relief for condominium and homeowner associations to collect past due fees from units that are in foreclosure.

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