Underhill tries end run on PEDC bill, fails

Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill last week tried to get the Florida House State Affairs Committee to not hear HB 1067, which restructures the Pensacola-Escambia County Promotion and Development Commission.

His action was counter to the Board of County Commissioners vote made in December that asked state lawmakers to revise the statute that created the commission in 1967 and revised it in 1980. Underhill was the lone vote against the changes.

Apparently the District 2 commissioner refused to accept the decision and tempted to scuttle the legislation one more time.

On March 26, Underhill emailed Committee Chair Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) after 11 p.m:

From: Doug Underhill
Date: March 26, 2019 at 11:14:24 PM EDT
To: “blaise.ingoglia@myfloridahouse.gov”
Cc: District2
Subject: Respectfully Request that You Not Hear HB1067

Chairman Ingoglia,

Please accept my apologies for not lobbying against this bill personally in committee and with you.  I am a Navy Reserve Commander and am currently on orders at the Navy War College in Newport, RI. I will not be back to Florida until next week, but I am compelled to write you now to express my opposition to HB1067.

I ask you to consider not adding HB1067 to the agenda.  This bill serves no purpose but to further entrench the corporate welfare machine of the panhandle, the Pensacola-Escambia Development Commission.  The bill is before you because rank and file Escambians began asking hard questions about this organization.  I and other Republicans struggled with taxpayer dollars being spent to pick the winners and losers, while our infrastructure goes unfunded. When it was revealed that their Chairman is not even a resident of Escambia County, (in contravention to the state law) we assumed honorable men would bring the organization into compliance.  Unwilling to right their course, they instead brought forth this bill to change the law.  When our delegation held a town hall on this matter, the only speakers in favor were those with comfortable seats at the trough of corporate welfare.  The citizens speaking in opposition outnumbered them substantially, but some members of our delegation chose to support it against the will of the people.

Escambia County is suffering from a string of failed Economic Development Unicorns.  We need to have a public discussion about the future role of tax dollars in corporate incentives.  Please do not support this bill and the subterfuge it represents. By not taking this bill to the agenda you can force the PEDC to become compliant with the current law and create space and time for the real public discussion that Escambians are calling for.

Very Respectfully,
Commissioner Doug Underhill
Escambia County, District 2

The State Affairs Committee did hear the bill on Thursday, March 28 and passed it unanimously, 20-0.

Underhill’s end run around his fellow commissioners came the day after he he had appealed in a mailer to Lake Charlene residents to pressure BCC Chairman Lumon May to place his eminent domain request on the April 4 agenda.

A $2.1-million flood mitigation project is on hold because the Lake Charlene Homeowners Association refused to sale a parcel critical to the project. Underhill wanted the commission to evoke eminent domain and force the HOA to sell the land to the county.

Underhill can’t bring the item up for another year because he failed to get a second for his motion in January after May asked him to delay the vote while other alternatives were explored.