DeSantis signed HB 1645 today – what happens next?
June 28, 2023
Updated at 5:50 p.m. with link to Mayor Ward’s statement.
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1645, a bill sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tempore Chuck Clemons to create a governor-appointed governing authority for Gainesville Regional Utilities.
The bill becomes effective July 1, and the Governor is required to issue a public notice soliciting citizen nominations for Authority members within 120 days (October 29). The nomination solicitation period will remain open for at least 30 days after the public notice is issued.
The Governor must appoint the initial members of the Authority within 60 days after the close of the nomination solicitation period. The initial terms will begin on October 1, 2023, with one member serving one year, one member serving two years, one member serving three years, and two members serving four years. Members appointed for subsequent terms will serve four-year terms.
Clemons encouraged residents to “focus on coming together as a community to get the best-qualified applicants for the Governor to consider. If you know of someone who meets the requirements and is willing to be considered, please nominate them. Self-nominations are also welcome.”
The first meeting of the Authority is set for October 4, 2023, in the Gainesville City Commission chambers, and the first official action of the Authority will be to elect a chair and vice chair from among its members. The Authority will meet at least once a month.
Authority members must each be “a person of recognized ability and good business judgment as identified by the Governor”; each member “is expected to perform his or her official duties in the best interests of GRU and its customers.”
One member must be a residential customer of GRU with “substantial knowledge of GRU, its operations, and its history.”
One member must be a private, non-government customer consuming at least 10,000 kWh per month of electric usage during each of the previous 12 months; this member may be the owner or a representative of the customer.
Three members must be “competent and knowledgeable” in one or more of a list of fields related to operating a utility, including law, economics, accounting, engineering, finance, or energy.
All members must maintain a primary residence in the electric service territory of GRU and must be GRU electric customers at all times while appointed to the Authority. Members must be qualified electors of the City except that one member must live outside the city limits. Members may not have any felony convictions.
Clemons sent an open letter in which he said that he and the other Republican members of Alachua County’s legislative delegation (Sen. Jennifer Bradley, Rep. Chuck Brannan, and Sen. Keith Perry) “heard the pleas of a broad cross-section of our constituents to do something, anything, to right this ship. The signing of the bill to appoint a Gainesville Regional Utility Authority was not reactionary – it was over 7 years in the making, including a two-year study by the Auditor General, who brought forth the facts which evidenced the urgent need for legislation.”
Clemons went on to “commit that the governance of GRU will return to the tenets upon which the utility was founded” and “pledge that we will make certain that each and every sincere position and perspective in regards to the direction of GRU is afforded the requisite respect and consideration that all citizens deserve.” Clemons told Alachua Chronicle, “This is the first step in stabilizing our local utility to make it viable for the next 100 years. This is the first time that 100% of GRU customers will be represented by the decision-makers of GRU, and it is satisfying.”
After this article was published, Mayor Harvey Ward issued a statement in which he promised to “ensure a proper and dependable transition” to the new Authority. He added, “I say this not because I believe a governor-appointed GRU Authority is the right move for our utility and our community, but because at this moment that debate is over. It is my job to make this changeover a smooth one for the people of Gainesville.”
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