Budget. The Revenue Estimating Conference will meet on April 6th. It is anticipated that revenue projections will be higher than expected, resulting in an increase in the amount of cash available going into budget negotiations.
With respect to the expected $10B in relief money coming to the state from the federal government, Senate President Wilton Simpson has expressed the opinion that the money should be divided into being spent on road and water-infrastructure type projects, stating “we have to be very careful plugging recurring holes with non-recurring revenue.” While the Senate did not take federal stimulus dollars into account while crafting their $95B budget, the House did while constructing their $97B budget.
COVID-19. Starting April 5th, Florida will expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility Monday to residents age 16 and older. The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for people 16 and older, according to the Florida Department of Health website. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been authorized for people 18 and older.
Protest. Senate President Wilton Simpson said Thursday he will use a procedural maneuver to ensure that a controversial law-and-order proposal pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis starts moving in the Senate. The House last week passed HB 1, which would, among other things, create a new crime of “mob intimidation” and stiffen penalties for injuring police officers during protests that become violent.
The Senate companion to the legislation, SB 484, has not been considered in committee. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee was slated to give the measure an initial vetting, but Chairman Jason Pizzo, a Democrat, did not schedule it for a hearing. On Thursday, Simpson said the House measure would be sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Simpson told reporters “our intention will be to refer that bill to committee, and we’ll be looking to take that up here in the very near future.”
Unemployment. On Thursday, the House Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee passed HB 1463 by Representative LaMarca, which seeks to overhaul the less-than-decade-old CONNECT unemployment system and move to a cloud-based system. A similar proposal in the Senate, SB 1948, has been approved by the Commerce and Tourism Committee and awaits an appearance before the Appropriations Committee.
Insurance. SB 76 by Senator Boyd has been teed up for a vote as soon as April 7th, after having been positioned procedurally by the full Senate on Thursday. The bill, in part, would allow insurers to limit amounts paid for roof damage and would place new restrictions on attorney fees in insurance disputes. A similar piece of legislation in the House, HB 305, does not include the potential limits on payments for roof damage. HB 305 is set to be heard Tuesday in its second committee of reference, the Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee.
Intellectual Freedom. The Senate on Thursday took up HB 233, which would require colleges and universities to conduct surveys on students, faculty, and staff members to gauge “intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” on campus. The Senate is prepared to take a final vote on the proposal, the House passed the measure on March 18th by a vote of 77-42.
Parental Rights. The House on Thursday passed HB 241 by Representative Grall, which would spell out a “Parents’ Bill of Rights” in state law. The legislation enumerates a series of rights for parents on issues related to education and health care. As an example, the bill includes guidelines for parents to receive information about their children’s education and health care. The Senate version, SB 582, sponsored by Sen. Ray Rodrigues has cleared two committees and is scheduled to be taken up Tuesday by the Senate Rules Committee.
Seaports. HB 267 State Preemption of Seaport Regulations by Representatives Roach and Sirois, which seeks to transfer the regulatory power of commerce in state seaports exercised by localities to the state, passed the House Local Administration & Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday by a favorable vote of 11-6. The bill was amended in committee to conform to the Senate version of the legislation. The legislation awaits being placed on the agenda of the House Commerce Committee before heading for a vote by the full House.
The Senate companion to this legislation, SB 426, has not moved since March 24th and still awaits a hearing in the Senate Rules Committee.
Impact Fees. SB 750 Impact Fees by Senator Gruters passed its second committee stop on Wednesday in the Senate Finance & Tax Committee by a vote of 6-2. If passed, this legislation sets standards for the rate of increase of an impact fee, as well as how they are calculated. Furthermore, it would restrict the use of funds collected from impact fees to be used for emergency medical, fire and law enforcement public facilities; and infrastructure, defined in the legislation as “costs required to bring the public facility into service.”
Local Occupational Licensing. SB 268 Preemption of Local Occupational Licensing by Senator Perry passed its second of three committee stops on Tuesday in the Senate Community Affairs Committee by a vote of 6-3. The bill would preempt licensing of occupations to the state and prohibit local governments from imposing additional licensing requirements or modifying licensing. The House companion, HB 735 by Rep. Harding passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 82-32.
Taxes. The House is scheduled Wednesday to take up HB 15, which comes after years of Florida businesses lobbying to require out-of-state online retailers to collect and remit taxes to the state. Under an agreement reached by House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson, the additional sales-tax revenue initially would be used to replenish the state’s unemployment compensation trust fund. Using the sales-tax money would shield businesses from having to pay increased unemployment taxes to replenish the fund.
Alimony. The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday will take up HB 1559 by Representatives Rodriguez and Andrade, which seeks to revamp the state’s alimony laws, including eliminating what is known as permanent alimony.
Elections. On Tuesday, the Senate Rules Committee will take up SB 90 sponsored by Sen. Baxley, which would add a series of restrictions to voting by mail. SB 1890 by Sen. Ray Rodrigues will also be taken up, would place a $3,000 cap on contributions to political committees trying to put proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot.
Becker’s State Legislative Lobbying Team will continue to monitor these developments as they evolve and will share with you as soon as information becomes available.