E-Verify: This week a House committee decides to advance legislation that requires Florida businesses to verify employment eligibility for workers. HB 1265 by Representative Cord Byrd passed favorably in the Commerce Committee in a 15-8 vote. This bill would require either use of the federal E-Verify database or, in some cases, use of the I-9 verification system. In the Senate, Senator Tom Lee presented a substitute amendment on his E-Verify bill, SB 664. Said amendment leaves less discretion to employers. It also drops the threshold for exempting small businesses from the process and will place the expectation on any company with 50 employees or more. The Senate version has stronger enforcement provisions than the House making it one of the most divisive issues of the Legislative Session.
Amendment 4 Ruling: This week Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has asked the appellate court to revisit a three-judge panel’s decision to uphold a federal judge’s ruling that it was unconstitutional to force Florida felons to first pay off their financial obligations before registering to vote. A 33-page motion filed with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals requests an “en banc” hearing and suggests that the three-judge panel wrongly applied “heightened scrutiny” instead of “rational-basis review.” The three-judge panel acknowledged that the Florida law “unconstitutionally punishes a class of felons based on on their wealth.” Gov. DeSantis’ lawyer argues that because felons have already forfeited their right to vote, “this case does not implicate that fundamental right.”
Vacation Rentals: This week the statewide regulatory framework for Vacation Rentals has been moving through the Legislature, but Gov. Ron DeSantis says he thinks rental rule should be handled at the local level. Various people around the state voice their displeasure with the legislation indicating that vacation rentals should be regulated at the local level. The Senate legislation (SB 1128), by Senator Manny Diaz, has one more committee stop, Rules, before reaching the Senate floor. It is scheduled to be heard in committee on Monday, March 2. The House bill (HB 1011), by Representative Jason Fischer, has cleared all three committees of reference, and has been placed on 2nd reading for the House calendar.
Intercollegiate Athlete Compensation: This week, SB 646 by Senator Debbie Mayfield passed favorably in its final committee, Rules, in a unanimous vote of 15-0 and is now ready for the Senate floor. This legislation establishes the right of Florida college athletes to have the opportunity to make money off their “name, image, likeness, or persona.” Colleges and Universities are not allowed to provide athletes a share of ticket sales or any other financial incentives outside of scholarships and grants. They are also not allowed to place restrictions on students or revoke or reduce scholarships for those athletes who earn outside compensation. The legislation would not take effect until July 1, 2021. Although this legislation is advancing through both Chambers, there is an ongoing review by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to determine how the legislation will impact college football bowl participation and student recruitment by schools. A House version (HB 7051), by Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee and Representative Chip LaMarca, is also ready for a floor vote.
THC Cap: This week an amendment was filed to a wide-ranging Health Bill, SB 230, by Senator Gayle Harrell, that would cap smokable cannabis at 10% THC for those patients under 21 years of age. There are exceptions to the 10% THC cap for terminally ill patients under 21 years of age and for patients under 21 who may need higher concentrations due to the severity of their medical condition. The bill which includes language relating to AIDS/HIV, health care in underserved areas, and the regulation of dental hygienists, has passed favorably in all committees of reference thus far. It has one more committee stop, Rules, before moving forward to the Senate floor.
School Safety: This week several amendments were filed to HB 7065 by the Education Committee. In response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high School on February 14, 2020, the Legislature created a Public Safety Act to address school safety and security. The bill establishes a school guardian program, created the Office of Safe Schools (OSS) within the Florida Department of Education (DOE), and increased coordination among state and local agencies serving students with mental illness and those who are at-risk of mental illness, among other provisions. The bill is scheduled to be heard on the House floor on Tuesday, March 3.
Environmental Regulation: This week HB 73 by Representative Tobin Overdorf passed both chambers and has now been laid on the desk of the Governor for final action. This bill requires local governments to address the contamination of recyclable materials in contracts for the collection, transportation, and processing of residential recyclable material. It also prohibits local governments from requiring a person claiming an exemption from environmental resource permitting requirements to provide further verification from the Department of Environmental Protection. The companion was SB 326 by Senator Keith Perry.
Taxation: This week HB 7097, by the Ways & Means Committee and Representative Bryan Avila, passed favorably in the Appropriations Committee in a 25-4 vote. This legislation provides tax reductions and tax-related modifications that will impact both families and businesses. The bill provides for a 0.5 percentage point reduction in the state communications services tax. There are also several provisions related to sales tax that include but are not limited to:
- A reduction in the tax rate for commercial property rentals from 5.5% to 5.4%;
- A three-day “back-to-school” tax holiday in early August 2020 and a seven-day “disaster preparedness” tax holiday in May and June 2020.
The bill provides a one-time increase for corporate tax income of $8.2 million for brownfield tax credit program. There is also restructuring for the tourist development tax. This bill has been placed on the House Calendar for 2nd reading.