The Florida Senate recently passed legislation that would set up a board to govern Florida public power utility Gainesville Regional Utilities. The bill was sent to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis for him to either sign or veto.
At issue is H.B. 1645, which would amend the Gainesville City charter to establish the Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority to govern GRU. The bill details the Authority’s governance and leadership structure, as well as duties and powers.
Among other things, the bill provides that the Authority will consist of five members appointed by the governor, to include at least one member from outside the city boundaries, serving four-year terms. It also sets qualification requirements for Authority members and provides for a citizen nomination solicitation process.
It would also limit transfers from the utility fund to the city “to the aggregate of utility system net revenues less the flow of funds and requires any remaining funds after the transfer to be dedicated to additional debt service or used as equity for future capital projects,” according to an analysis of the bill provided by Florida House staff.
The bill’s language mirrors a referendum rejected by Gainesville voters in November 2018 by more than 59 percent of the vote, the City of Gainesville said in March.
“Political appointees would deny Gainesville voters the right to elect members of GRU’s governing body. This move would disenfranchise Gainesville voters,” said Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward in March.
“Right now, our neighbors can serve on the Utility Advisory Board, or can come to city commission meetings or can talk to commissioners in the aisles of the grocery store or the hardware store. They have direct access to their decision-makers. This move would silence the voices of an engaged citizenry,” he said.