The Gainesville City Commission will vote to continue funding its legal action against the state of Florida with another $250,000 on Thursday, according to the city agenda.
The City Commission aims to stop the state’s implementation of House Bill 1645, passed in May, that will place a governor-appointed board to manage Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) in October. Gov. Ron DeSantis approved the bill in June.
The City Commission approved the use of an initial quart of a million dollars in June and hired the national law firm Akerman LLP to represent Gainesville. Since then, those funds have been used to file a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, motion for temporary relief and a motion for full and final summary judgment, spending $219,000 as of the end of July.
If approved, Thursday’s item would bring Gainesville legal funding to half a million dollars. The state is expected to provide a response to the city’s filings by Friday and oral arguments are scheduled for Sept. 22—less than two weeks before the state’s authority board is slated to start.
The City Commission decided to use GRU reserve funds for the initial $250,000. According to city documents, the second set of $250,000 could come from the same source if approved or another source.
However, the city faces a tight budget heading into the next fiscal year, leaving perhaps no room other than GRU reserves to find the funding. The City Commission also tasked GRU to absorb a $1.1 million impact that neither the utility nor general government accounted for in their respective budgets.
According to Gainesville’s lawsuit, HB 1645 doesn’t and can’t explain how a city department can be taken away from the city government.
"In other words, the State of Florida has seized a department within a Florida City because the State disagrees with the elected officials and the electorate of that City on how that particular department should be run,” the lawsuit reads.
Gainesville residents also formed the nonprofit Gainesville Residents United and sued the state of Florida over the Gainesville Regional Utilities Authority.
Thursday’s special meeting also includes a discussion of the city’s open container ordinance and the possibility of entertainment districts.