Central Florida to get new toll-road authority

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/21/2014

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign a bill into law that would merge multiple toll road agencies into one regional authority.

The Senate voted unanimously to sign off on House changes to a bill that would merge the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority with existing authorities in Lake, Seminole and Osceola counties. House lawmakers also gave unanimous consent on the bill to create a new Central Florida Expressway Authority.

Osceola County would join the group in 2018. However, a provision in SB230 would allow the county to keep its toll revenue.

The bill’s passage follows an indictment last month of OOCEA board member Scott Batterson. According to reports, Batterson was indicted by an Orange County grand jury on three felony charges.

The charges are listed as solicitation for bribery by a public servant, solicitation for receiving unlawful compensation and solicitation for exerting influence.

Batterson, who is one of three people on the board still under investigation for possible violation of Florida’s open meetings law, has since been suspended by the governor.

“All public officials must be held to the highest ethical standards,” Gov. Scott said in a memo to media following the suspension.

Addressing corruption concerns, another provision in the bill covers ethics and disclosure rules for CFX board members. They would be forbidden from having any business with agencies that might do business with the new authority.

In addition, members couldn’t lobby the authority for two years after leaving their position.

The CFX board would be made up of nine members. The governor would get to appoint three members. The heads of the counties will appoint four more and the mayors of Orange County and the city of Orlando will select the final two members.

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