Local gun regulation among county’s 2012 legislative priorities

Palm Beach County commissioners on Monday reviewed and discussed the first draft of a 39-page manifesto outlining their legislative agenda and proposed priorities for 2012. While a number of issues reappear each year, several new items were added this year, including a proposal to regain limited local gun regulation.

The county has opposed legislation that went into effect earlier this month requiring the repeal of all local gun ordinances. Commissioners say such statutes violate the county’s home rule authority. Specific concerns include the safety of public facilities and day care centers, and commission staff has drafted language for potential changes to state law to accommodate those locations.

Another big issue facing the Legislature this year is the reapportionment of state legislative and congressional districts as required by the U.S. Census every 10 years. The county is asking that districts be redrawn in a way that preserves its status quo, which is no less than three state Senate seats with a majority of constituents in Palm Beach County.

Gambling is also a hot topic, with bills already filed and speculation brewing over the potential expansion of games at pari-mutuel facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The county’s concern is that if the Palm Beach Kennel Club is barred from expanding, it could mean the loss of a local business that employs over 600 people and that attracts as many as 750,000 visitors per year. The county is opposed to legislation that would put local pari-mutuels at an unfair disadvantage as they compete with other gaming facilities in the state.

Funding requests also remain a high priority, with many projects on the agenda involving federal, county and municipal matching funds. Among the requests to the state are more than $3 million for beaches, more than $2 million each for the Lake Worth Lagoon and Freshwater Lake Restoration, and $4.5 million for the Glades Utility Authority Water Infrastructure Project. Neither the Lake Worth Lagoon nor the Freshwater Lake Restoration has received funds since 2009.

The commission will hold a joint meeting with the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation on Nov. 21 to further discuss the county’s legislative priorities.

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