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Friday, January 18, 2008
Despite Budget Woes, Agency Pushes for Millions in New Taxpayer Spending
As part of a pending lawsuit, the Florida DHSMV has filed a request for a summary judgment asking that the Court to uphold legislation that could bring an end to the award-winning public-private partnership that provides over 2 million Official Florida Driver Handbooks each year at no cost to taxpayers.
The lawsuit (National Safety Commission, Inc. vs. the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles) contends that proviso language in the 2007 General Appropriations Act and language in the Implementing Bill is unconstitutional because it impairs National Safety Commission's rights under its contract with DHSMV and because it amends substantive law on a topic other than appropriations.
In November, the judge presiding over the lawsuit issued an injunction finding that National Safety Commission is likely to succeed on its claim that the legislation is unconstitutional and preserved the contract, pending a final decision in the suit. This latest motion filed by the DHSMV asks the Court to rule that the legislation is constitutional and that the agency can cancel the agreement.
"It is simply unconscionable that at a time when the state is cutting funding for schools and critical social services, an agency head is spending costly state resources to kill a contract that has saved Florida taxpayers millions of dollars," said National Safety Commission President Ken Underwood. "This decision displays a troubling misjudgment of priorities, and all Floridians should be questioning why a state agency is running up legal bills and aggressively supporting language that is clearly unconstitutional and designed specifically to eliminate a model public-private partnership whose performance has been praised by independent observers."
In 2004, the idea for this landmark public-private partnership won the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Davis Productivity Award – a benchmark of government innovation to protect taxpayer dollars. Florida TaxWatch has endorsed the plan, estimated to save $2.5 million over five years, and has said the state could save $20 million more by employing other such partnerships to publish state information.
In 2005, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles solicited open, competitive bids to publish more than 2 million Official Florida Drivers Handbooks annually at no cost to taxpayers in exchange for advertising rights. The National Safety Commission was the only company to respond and submit a proposal to provide this cost-saving service to the state despite a widely advertised solicitation to over 150 potential vendors.