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COVID-19 Support And Infrastructure Money: Fort Lauderdale's 2021 Legislative Priorities

Andrews Ave.
Caitie Switalski
Fort Lauderdale City Hall

Officials in Fort Lauderdale this week voted on the list of guidelines to charge the city's lobbyists with and the types of legislation the city is looking to support — and oppose.

In two months, Florida lawmakers will meet in Tallahassee — despite the pandemic — to work on negotiating a state budget for the next year. Along the way, they will pass a multitude of other bills impacting counties, cities, universities, school boards and more.

Now, local governments around the state are lining up what their top items legislative priorities ahead of the legislative session in March — including Fort Lauderdale.

City commissioners voted earlier this week to approve their list of issues support this year. At the very top of the list is COVID-19 recovery and funding vaccination programs.

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The city specifically supports, "securing funding for and prioritizing testing and vaccination processes for first responders, senior citizens, and medical staff. Also support proposals that include flexibility provisions for local governments to use COVID-19 funds for lost revenue."

The city lost less revenue than it initially believed it would, from things like sales taxes, taxes from Florida Power & Light, and programming at parks. However, it's still looking to the state to help recover millions.

And while COVID-19 recovery measures are the number one priority, the city has also charged its lobbyists to support bills that include funding for sewage and stormwater infrastructure — as well as water quality in the continued aftermath of its sewage and water pipe breaks in 2019 and 2020.

Whether the city, or any municipality, will receive what it asks for remains to be seen.

WLRN spoke with Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis about how to ask the state for money in a year when the state itself is experiencing a revenue loss and the pandemic is changing priorities.

The following conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

WLRN: The difference in asking the legislature for something this year compared to last year — What are your challenges with that?

TRANTALIS: Last year we did not talk about COVID. This year it's number one. And we're hoping that maybe cities alone should decide what's best practices for each individual community.

We're doing our best to comply with the governor's executive orders. I think we're doing a good job at that. But we could certainly do a little bit better. You know, the local municipalities need that assistance from the state in order to staff these sites to make sure that the proper protocols are practiced.

We're also seeking reimbursement for some of our expenses that we have in connection with small businesses and rental assistance, things like that, to help people through this crisis.

You've got a lot of asks here, what does it mean for you to even get your top two or three requests? And what does it mean if you don't receive them?

Cities are not always that successful in achieving much from their wish list. You know, it's like sitting on Santa's lap and hoping you get the biggest toy.

We work with our individual lobbyists that we have representing us, collaborate with other cities that have shared interests. And we certainly are aware of the fact the state is experiencing diminished income. And so we understand that reality. But we want to be there at the table discussing which programs are best funded this year.

The full list of Fort Lauderdale's legislative priorities can be found below:

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, produces WLRN's midday public affairs program, Sundial weekdays at 1 and 8 p.m. Prior to transitioning to production, Caitie covered news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News for four years.