New toll-road authority in Central Florida

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 7/28/2014

A new Florida law merges multiple toll road agencies into one regional authority.

Gov. Rick Scott recently signed a bill into law combining the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority with existing authorities in Lake, Seminole and Osceola counties to create the Central Florida Expressway Authority, or CFX.

Osceola County is set to join the group in 2018. However, the new law allows the county to keep its toll revenue.

SB230’s passage follows an indictment this spring of Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority Board Member Scott Batterson. According to reports, Batterson was indicted by an Orange County grand jury on three felony charges.

The charges were listed as solicitation for bribery by a public servant; solicitation for receiving unlawful compensation; and solicitation for exerting influence. The unlawful compensation charge, however, has since been dropped.

Batterson, who was suspended by the governor, is set to go on trial this week for violation of Florida’s open meetings law. Another former board member, Marco Peña, pleaded guilty to violation of public records laws and paid a $500 fine.

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

Addressing corruption concerns, the new law also covers ethics and disclosure rules for CFX board members. They are forbidden to have any business with agencies that might do business with the new authority.

In addition, members cannot lobby the authority for two years after leaving their position.

The CFX board is made up of nine members. The governor appointed three members. The heads of the counties appointed four more, and the mayors of Orange County and the city of Orlando selected the final two members.

The group met for the first time earlier this month. The next scheduled meeting is set for Aug. 15.

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