On balance, the just completed 2014 Florida Legislative Session was good news for bike/ped and safety advocates.
In November 2013, BikeWalkLee sent a letter to the Lee County State Legislative Delegation outlining our requests for the coming session and we followed up by testifying at the annual Lee County Legislative Delegation meeting in December. In January, BikeWalkLee issued its 2014 priorities, which re-affirmed how state legislators could assist in addressing major bike/ped safety issues in Florida.
This year’s outcomes were a mixed bag, but on balance, it was positive news for bike/ped and safety advocates. The following were our priorities, and actions taken by the Legislature and Governor are listed below:
1) support focused strategies that enhance economic development through bike tourism, including support for funding of the Coast to Coast Connector Trail, a 275-mile trail across central Florida;
Legislative Action: $15 million was approved for the Coast to Coast Connector Trail and indications are that the Governor will sign the bill.
In addition, the Legislature passed SB 2514, “relating to Bicycle and Pedestrian Ways”. This bill authorizes FDOT to use appropriated funds for the establishment of a statewide system of interconnected multi-use trails, provided that FDOT is not responsible for the operation or maintenance of these projects. FDOT District 1 Secretary Billy Hattaway plans to discuss how this new provision will be implemented at the June 20th MPO Board meeting.
2) provide state level support for a robust public transit system;
Legislative Action: Transit did not appear to receive much if any attention during this legislative session.
3) support SB 322 that would strengthen enforcement of the texting ban enacted last year;
Legislative Action: Although several bills were introduced, none of these bills made it through the legislative process in either body. The need to strengthen this legislation will continue to be a priority for next legislative session.