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Florida bill promotes unsolicited public-private partnership proposals

Private entities pitching Florida local governments on unsolicited public-private partnerships would face less competition and a smoother approval process under a bill that the Legislature passed and sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis last week.

Senate Bill 781 would allow a local government to enter into an unsolicited proposal for a P3 without engaging in a public bidding process, as required under current law, if it instead holds two public meetings on the proposal and determines that the proposal is in the public’s interest. It would also ease public notice requirements.

A bill easing competition among private entities pitching public-private partnerships to Florida’s local governments has made it to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

Local governments would also no longer be required to own the P3 project upon completion or termination of the agreement or final payment on the financing. Under the measure, if ownership is not conveyed to the public entity within 10 years, then the public benefits must be identified and stated by the public entity.

The bill breezed through the House on March 4 with a vote of 114 to 0 and passed the Senate 37-2 the same day. DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to a request on whether he supports the measure. If signed by the governor, the law would take effect on July 1.

The gap between the Sunshine State’s infrastructure needs and what it has to cover it stands at $2.59 trillion over ten years, according to Florida TaxWatch, an independent tax watchdog group that supports the bill. Current unsolicited bid rules are “unfair and contrary to the Legislature’s intent to encourage investment by private entities and provide the ‘greatest possible flexibility’ to public and private entities contracting for the provision of public facilities or services, the group said in a January P3 report.

“Government procurement moves slowly, and Florida TaxWatch thinks every effort should be made to fast track infrastructure proposals where a private entity is sharing the financial risks for the project and the project has been shown to be in the public interest,” the group said.

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