Tallahassee–Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City), Senator Doug Broxson (R-Pensacola), and Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) Thursday filed Senate Bill 364, The Recovery Fund for the Deepwater Horizon Incident, to ensure 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.
“These funds represent a tremendous opportunity to make long-term investments in Northwest Florida’s economy. By sending settlement funds directly to Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., we can ensure they are allocated in a transparent and accountable manner,” said Senator Gainer.
Under current law, the eight disproportionately affected counties are to receive 75 percent of all economic damage settlement funds received by the state. Senate Bill 364 clarifies that funds are to be directly appropriated to Triumph Gulf Coast Inc. no later than 30 days after they are received by the state.
“By clarifying the requirements under current law, this legislation ensures a smooth transfer of funds to Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., not only for the funds the state recently received, but also for any future settlement payments,” said Senator Broxson.
The eight Florida counties disproportionately affected by the Deepwater Horizon Spill include: Bay County, Escambia County, Franklin County, Gulf County, Okaloosa County, Santa Rosa County, Walton County and Wakulla County.
“Nearly seven years after the spill began, on a daily basis, we are still hearing from constituents whose families and businesses were drastically impacted,” said Senator Montford. “This legislation affirms our longstanding commitment to keep these critical funds in Northwest Florida to provide for the ongoing economic recovery of our region.”
During the 2013 Legislative Session, under the leadership of then-Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) the Florida Senate developed legislation (Senate Bill 1024) sponsored by current Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart), which created Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. to ensure that economic damage settlement funds coming to the state would both benefit the eight disproportionately affected counties and be properly accounted for. Under this legislation, the five-member Triumph Gulf Coast board, chaired by former Florida House Speaker Allen Bense, is responsible for utilizing the settlement proceeds to promote job creation through lasting economic development over a period of thirty years.
Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. is tasked to work with local governments to make awards to programs and projects that meet the priorities for economic recovery, diversification, and enhancement of the disproportionately affected counties. This includes economic development projects, grants to support programs of excellence that prepare students for future occupations, as well as infrastructure projects.
The corporation is required to abide by the state’s public record laws and public meeting notice requirements. 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. The governing board will be responsible for evaluating the economic benefits provided by each proposed project and will approve or decline funding.
For more information, please visit www.FLSenate.gov.