President Office — Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2017
Senate President's Office,
Governor Scott Signs Legislation to Keep BP Oil Funds in Northwest Florida
Legislation unanimously passed Senate and House during the 2017 Legislative Session
Andrea Gainey, Senator Gainer
Kevin Brown, Senator Broxson
Marcia Mathis, Senator Montford
Tallahassee-Florida Governor Rick Scott today signed House Bill 7077, Gulf Coast Economic Corridor. The new law, authored by Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City), Senator Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola), and Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee), ensures funds received in the settlement of the state’s economic damage claims caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill remain in Northwest Florida’s eight disproportionately affected counties.
“I am pleased to see this outstanding legislation signed into law today by Governor Scott,” said Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart). “This bill reflects the efforts of many Senators who have worked hard to ensure that these funds remain in the Northwest Florida communities impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. I personally saw firsthand the economic and environmental disaster endured by our fellow citizens in Northwest Florida, and I am grateful to Senators Gainer, Broxson, and Montford as well as Appropriations Chair Latvala and Majority Leader Simpson for their tireless efforts to bring this bill across the finish line.”
“Today is a historic day for Northwest Florida, and we are so grateful to Governor Scott for his support. This law will make certain the currently-held settlement payments, as well as all future settlement payments are transferred directly to Triumph Gulf Coast, where we know they will be used to ensure the ongoing economic recovery of Northwest Florida,” said Senator Gainer.
The eight Florida counties disproportionately affected by the Deepwater Horizon Spill include: Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Wakulla Counties.
The initial settlement payment was received by the state in July of 2016, and future payments are scheduled to be paid annually from 2019 through 2033. Under current law, the eight counties are to receive 75 percent of all economic damage settlement funds received by the state. House Bill 7077 immediately appropriates the initial settlement payment to Triumph Gulf Coast, and releases future settlement payments, received on or after July 1, 2017, directly to Triumph Gulf Coast, no later than 30 days after they are received by the state.
“With Governor Scott’s signature today, these critical settlement funds can finally be transferred back to Florida’s Panhandle, where they belong,” said Senator Broxson. “Triumph Gulf Coast will develop a comprehensive economic improvement plan for Northwest Florida to ensure that our communities benefit from these funds now and in the future.”
“Nearly a decade after the spill began, on a daily basis, we are still hearing from constituents whose families and businesses were drastically impacted,” said Senator Montford. “With Governor Scott’s support, this legislation affirms our longstanding commitment to keep these critical funds in Northwest Florida to provide for the long-term recovery of our communities.”
The legislation requires each board of county commissioners in the eight counties to solicit proposed projects and programs from other elected local governing boards within the county and provide Triumph Gulf Coast with a list of proposed projects and programs located within its county. The submitted list must include projects and programs submitted by other elected local governing boards and recommendations by the board of county commissioners. Triumph Gulf Coast must allocate at least five percent of the initial $300 million to projects and programs in each county, and must allocate at least four percent of future settlement funds to projects and programs in each county. Remaining funds are unrestricted can be appropriated at the discretion of Triumph Gulf Coast, provided they meet other legal requirements.
Currently, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate, the Governor, the Attorney General, and the Chief Financial Officer, each appoint one board member. House Bill 7077 expands the number of board members from five to seven. The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives will each appoint an additional private sector member from one of the four least populous disproportionately affected counties, so that two such counties are represented on the board. All employees and board members appointed after July 1, 2017, are subject to a six-year lobbying ban.
In 2013, the Legislature created Triumph Gulf Coast to ensure economic damage settlement funds coming to the state would both benefit the eight disproportionately affected counties and be properly accounted for. The Triumph Gulf Coast Board is tasked to make awards to programs and projects that meet the priorities for economic recovery, diversification, and enhancement of the disproportionately affected counties. The corporation is required to abide by the state’s public record laws and public meeting notice requirements.