Fred Costello’s Top 10 Accomplishments
while serving in the Florida House of Representatives
Based upon issues Ormond Beach faced when I was Mayor of Ormond Beach, I chose to run for the Florida House of Representatives to address three things:
1) state intrusion into local growth management planning,
2) state mandates negatively impacting local pension funding and
3) tax reform.
All three issues were successfully addressed in response to my efforts.
As a conservative who believes the best government is the least government closest to the people, I chose to focus on stopping bad legislation and to file “reform” bills to shrink government.
I had no desire to file lobbyist supported bills to expand government. Significant reform bills with no lobbyist backing them rarely pass. And when they do, it is usually after multiple years of filing them.
Thus I was known as a bold reformer willing to take on issues that had essentially no chance of passing … but they were issues that needed to be addressed.
I am proud of these Top 10 accomplishments:
1. I filed "HB 751: Transparency in state education funding” which would have required the state to annually publicize the statewide required local effort as a tax increase or tax decrease over the Roll Back Rate (RLE) and include the increase or decrease in the tax revenue generated by the required local effort in the calculation of the net overall state tax increase or tax decrease compared with the previous year. Although it did not pass, the desired result has been accomplished. In response to filing HB 751, I stopped the annual increase in RLE school property tax and have saved Florida taxpayers over $1 Billion … so far. As with life in general, all actions have consequences … the year I saved Floridians $428 million, Enterprise Florida did not receive their requested $250 million to allow selection of winners and losers via individually directed economic development funding (good) and all of my member projects were vetoed (bad).
Media regarding Transparency in Education Funding:
2. As the only former mayor on the Subcommittee on Military and Community Affairs, I was the de facto “go to” legislator. After spending hours educating subcommittee staff, we filed a “Committee Bill” that eliminated anti-home rule regulations, reduced state involvement in local growth management and led to the elimination of the Department of Community Affairs.
3. When I filed “HB 303 Governmental Employee Pension Reform” we received thousands of negative emails as well as death threats. There were protests outside my dental office. The bill called for no decrease in benefits previously earned, it amended the multiplier to 1.6 for all pensions receiving any state funding (plus employee funded enhancements), it authorized that a defined contribution could be added by any agency for Special Class Employees, it repealed the disability presumption, it eliminated the DROP program, it stipulated that pension funding by government would not exceed 15% of payroll (if cost exceeded 15%, benefits would be decreased or employee contribution would make up the balance), it required that the majority of Pension Board members must be non-members of plan, and it allowed premium tax dollars to be used for existing benefits subject to collective bargaining. In response to leadership telling me this was not a “Freshman Bill” … I pulled the bill and worked with senior Representatives to accomplish needed pension reform. Although we did not get all I recommended, I am credited with forcing the pension reform issue and moving the needle further than many expected was possible. Florida now has one of the most stable and well-funded state pension plans.
Media regarding HB 303 Governmental Employee Pension Reform
4. Without my efforts to convince the Speaker to hear the legislation, the legislation authorizing formation of the Prescription Drug Management Program (database) would not have been heard by the Florida House. Passage of the PDMP has significantly reduced the number of deaths from opioids obtained from now essentially eliminated pill mills.
5. I refused to run a bill the Majority Office asked me to run which would have expanded Eminent Domain. My efforts assured that the residential historic neighborhoods in St Augustine. would not be impacted by Eminent Domain authorized by Tallahassee.
6. I protected private property rights of homeowners by stopping the attempt to allow short term rentals in single family residential neighborhoods. This issue continues to be hotly contested.
7. I filed legislation to prohibit legislators from participating in discussion about or voting on legislation which would result in a special personal gain due to a conflict of interest which they must report. Although my Ethics Bill did not pass, it did stimulate improvements in ethics reform. There is still more work to do.
8. I was able to get Chiropractic care of up to $2500 included in PIP.
9. My leadership among the freshmen class stimulated removal of a gambling provision added during conference from a budget bill allowing many of us to vote for it. My efforts gave notice to the Senate that we would not accept such extraneous provisions added during conference. I will continue to oppose such combo bills.
10. I was named “Defender of Home Rule” (one of only 3 out of 120 Representatives) in response to my efforts to stop Tallahassee from expanding their reach into our local governments.
The following bills I filed did not pass. The policies addressed still need to be adopted in the future. I would file such bills again rather than file lobbyist supported bills which do not reform or reduce government.
HB 135 CCNA; Allow government to consider fees when negotiating for engineering and architectural professional and consulting services from among the firms short-listed as “highly qualified” (contracts are still awarded based upon staff ranking with no ability to seek competitive bids; this needs to change)
HB 759 Stimulus for Special Event Tourism/Jobs; Allow counties to retain 50% of incremental increase in sales tax revenue above the base year collection during 2 selected months with special events (the locals still receive all the negative impacts and pay all costs for special events while the state still receives the benefit of increased sales tax from the growth in special events)
HB 827 Limitation of Public Money into Private Sports and Entertainment Facilities; Requires a vote of impacted taxpayers prior to public investment into private facilities but would not preclude rebate of increased sales tax collected after private investment (I still believe public money should not go into private entities without a vote of the people; this is still a hot topic but I helped it move to front and center)
HJR 381 Save Our Properties; Extends the 3% SOH annual assessment cap to all properties; prohibits an increase in taxable value when just value decreases; increases the homestead exemption for homebuyers who have not owned a home in the past 3 years up to a maximum of $200,000/50% of value (we will never do away with SOH but we need to cap annual assessments on all property to inject fairness into the system)
HB 575 Education Funding Tax Reform; Eliminates the “required local effort” education property tax (which eliminates roughly 30% of all property taxes) and replaces the roughly $8 billion in property tax education funding with a new two percent “education sales & use tax” and the collection of sales tax on Internet sales in a revenue neutral manner … with roughly 40% paid by our out of state visitors
HB 477: Hospital districts; Requires a positive voter reauthorization every ten years to maintain the taxing authority of any hospital taxing district that levies a tax within the previous 10 years (Although this bill did not pass, the Halifax Hospital Taxing District has decreased their tax levy by about 75% which many say is in response to my efforts.)
Media regarding Hospital Tax Districts:
HB 687: Distributed energy policy: Authorizes a local renewable energy supplier (any property owner) to sell up to 2 MW of electricity (including electricity generated using natural gas or propane from a back up system to the renewable energy system) to contiguous neighbors or back to the grid; stipulates that any fixed rate fee covering availability/maintenance of grid be the same for all users (those who use net metering and those who do not) of the same class; preserves net metering with annual true up using avoided cost (this significant reform would stimulate innovation which would enhance our energy independence and lower the cost of fossil fuels)
Media regarding Energy Policy:
HB 37: Direct primary care; Clarifies that direct primary care agreements are not insurance and specifies what must be included in the written agreement between the healthcare provider and patient or patient representative; stipulates that it does not satisfy the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act without a wrap around catastrophic care policy This healthcare reform bill has finally passed! It is part of a group of significant health care reforms I look forward to championing in Washington.
HB: 4047 District Cost Differential; Eliminates the District Cost Differential This bill helped raise awareness of the inequity of the DCD and stimulated “compression funding” which helped Volusia recover some of the lost funding this past year; elimination of the DCD still needs to happen.
HB 317 Business tax reform; eliminates and replaces revenue from corporate income tax, sales taxes on commercial leases, and sales tax on industrial machinery & equipment with revenue from state sales surtax; revises provisions of communications services tax
HB 965 Agency Relationships with Governmental Health Care Providers; provides sovereign immunity for health care workers volunteering in charity clinics