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Latest – March 7th, 8:19 PM.
Niceville-area State Representative Patt Maney (R-Shalimar) filed a bill Tuesday, March 7th, which would end the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners budget oversight on the bridge – and make it an independent entity. Okaloosa County Commissioners called for the relationship between the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners and the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority (MBBA) to be re-examined this year during the state legislative session – with some dissent on the method. Commissioner for western Niceville and Valparaiso, Nathan Boyles, had asked the board to consider requesting more oversight over the bridge, not less.
Currently, the Mid-May Bridge Authority must submit a budget to the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners, who can then increase or decrease the authority’s budget and veto individual items. The five Mid-Bay Bridge Authority board members are appointed by Florida’s governor and a required to meet regularly and approve their budget.
“HB 1643 saves taxpayers no money, and it does not improve accountability over public assets. Indeed, it does the opposite,” said Okaloosa County Commissioner Nathan Boyles, “I have been a vocal critic of the lack of transparency as to the MBBA’s toll setting and finances for a number of years. While I know that my annual questioning of the MBBA leadership in a public forum was painful, the annual presentation of their budget to the Commission was the only remaining shred of accountability. This bill kills even that modest level of oversight and moves the MBBA fully into the shadows of Tallahassee government. While I was outvoted by my fellow commissioners in opposing making the MBBA an independent district, I remain convinced that this is bad government and would ask the bill sponsors to articulate the true public purpose served by this bill, or withdraw it.”
The bill is what is called a ‘local bill.’ This bill still has to go through the regular Florida Legislative Process. Still, it regulates a specific special district (like a city or, in this case, a bridge authority). Special districts (like the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority), which the Florida Legislature creates, can seek to amend their governing documents through a charter amendment. Creating or changing the charter of a particular district requires a local bill, a type of specific law that pertains to the special district only. The bill requires approval by the local county legislative delegation before it can be filed as a House bill.
If the bill passes the house and the senate and is signed by the governor – the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority will no longer have to put its budget before the Okaloosa County Commission for approval.
The authority would still be a public entity and must abide by the same laws as any other public body. Their budget would still have to be made publicly available, their board would also have to obey Sunshine Law, and the enterprise would still be publicly owned.