This Alert is a broad overview of issues of interest to our clients that were debated leading up to and during the 2014 Legislative Session. Please note that it is not intended to be a comprehensive representation of all substantive legislation addressed by the Legislature.
With elections looming in November, avoiding controversy appeared to be the goal during Florida’s 2014 Legislative Session. Lawmakers deliberated on issues with an eye toward the November elections when Republican Governor Rick Scott, all Cabinet Officers, the entire House of Representatives, and half of the state’s Senate seats will be on the ballot. The bitter debate marking prior years was quieted early on – with the majority party hoping to provide a stable footing for the Governor’s re-election bid. However, the last weeks of Session brought on a resurgence of the customary logjam between chambers as lawmakers sought closure on issues. At Session’s outset, a recovering economy and an approximate $1.2 billion budget surplus brought Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) together with the Governor in an early decision to pass $500 million in tax cuts – a chief component being the rollback of vehicle registration fees enacted in 2009. Legislative leaders based their tax-cut decisions on the premise that now was the time to put money back in the hands of working Floridians. The additional revenue led to smoother negotiations on some areas of the final $77.1 billion budget, while on other areas, it fueled heated competition as legislators vied for local projects and program funding, particularly in education, health care, and the environment. Tax and fee reductions were one of five major points agreed to by the outgoing President and Speaker as part of their "2014 Work Plan Florida" agenda – the second year that they joined forces prior to Session on a congenial, agreed-to framework for the 60 days. Included was a consensus to provide economic opportunity through education; expand benefits for the state’s military and veterans; increase safeguards for Florida’s children and seniors; and improve government accountability and efficiency through reforming the state's ethics laws, revamping the Florida Retirement System, and creating a state information technology strategy. While agreement had come easily on these "big picture" issues, the traditional wrangling came in the final details and ultimately cost the passage of leadership's priority to substantially revise the state’s pension program – primarily pushed by the Speaker. Expectations that Floridians would see major changes in Florida’s gaming policy this year, including the possibility of two new South Florida casino resorts, did not materialize. In early April, the Chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee announced that there would be no comprehensive gaming legislation passed in 2014. The Speaker’s call that any gaming expansion go before the voters by way of a Constitutional Amendment and pending negotiations by the Governor on a soon-to-expire part of the state’s gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida seemed to prompt the decision. Issues surrounding the use of medical marijuana also took center stage due to a Constitutional Amendment proposal on the November ballot to legalize its use in Florida. Republican leaders sought to distance themselves from the amendment issue, but rallied behind bills to authorize the use of a "non-euphoric" marijuana extract to aid children suffering from severe seizures. The bill passed on the last day of Session.
Detailed information on the topics below can be accessed by clicking on the arrow to the left of each sub-heading.
$1.2 Billion Budget Surplus Evidence of Recovering Economy
Six years of budget shortfalls and intense budget cutting – a consequence of the recession’s impact on state coffers -- gave way to a welcomed, estimated $1.2 billion surplus resulting from a now-recovering Florida economy marked by lowering unemployment and increased consumer spending. As a result, House and Senate leadership sought ways to return additional revenues to state citizens through tax and fee cuts – an advantage for lawmakers facing the November elections.
The optimistic General Revenue estimate was released by fiscal representatives of the Governor’s Office, the Florida House and Senate, and the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. The economists, formally known as the Revenue Estimating Conference, meet periodically throughout the year to update estimates of General Revenue taxes. Those taxes, including such things as sales taxes, are a critical source of money for the state's schools, health programs, and prisons. Lawmakers used the estimates as they negotiated and approved a budget before the end of the Legislative Session. The new budget will take effect with the July 1 start of the fiscal year.
Sen. Joe Negron (R-Palm City), Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, issued the following statement in response to the news: "Today’s estimate confirms Florida’s economy is growing as businesses and families across our state continue to recover from the impacts of a lengthy recession. While our economy is still improving, the consensus estimate and corresponding economic analysis also give us reason to be cautious as we craft Florida’s budget…". The Senate Appropriations Committee, along with the House committee, chaired by Rep. Seth McKeel (R-Lakeland), were charged with hammering out the details of the spending plan.
Two weeks into the Session, economic forecasters boosted their projections by $150 million over the next 16 months, with $26 million of that increase coming before July 1. Under the latest estimates, the state was expected to take in $1.4 billion in the next budget year more than in the current year.
Sales taxes are growing modestly as consumer spending recovers, said Amy Baker, the Legislature's chief economist. Estimates indicated that collections would increase by 5.2 percent during the coming year with growth continuing through 2017. At the same time, revenue forecasters shaved some money off expected rebounds in real estate-related taxes as interest rates begin to inch up and federal programs targeted at homeowners with "underwater" mortgages taper off. "Pretty much everyone who was going to refinance has now refinanced," Baker said.
Because of extra money carried forward from the current budget and the extra expenses that the state will face --- like growth in school enrollment --- lawmakers had a surplus of approximately $1.2 billion as they began working out the details of their budgets.
Some of that money was already earmarked, however. Governor Rick Scott and legislative leaders had pledged to reduce taxes by $500 million during the election-year Session.
Moreover, Florida TaxWatch Chief Economist Jerry Parrish had earlier stated that "Florida is emerging from the recession, and the most compelling evidence lies in recent job growth estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics."
He stated that "in 2013, Florida experienced its highest job growth since 2005. Not only is the state adding jobs, it is adding more than nearly all other U.S. states. Last year, Florida ranked first in job creation per capita among the highest population states, including New York, California, and Texas, and comes second only to oil-rich North Dakota in job gains by percentage." He projected that the state’s job market should see even more improvement in 2014.
Also cited by Parrish was a recent analysis by the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. It confirmed that the state is "receiving positive returns on investments in economic development programs." Additionally, he noted that Florida has paid off more than $3.5 billion in state debt over the past two years – regularly contributing to increasing state reserves.
Governor, House & Senate Offer Initial Spending Proposals for Deliberation
Overview: Governor's Recommended Budget
On January 29, Governor Rick Scott released a $74.2 billion budget plan for the coming 2014-15 Fiscal Year – closely mirroring the current year’s budget of $74.24 billion. In the weeks leading up to the release, the Governor traveled the state announcing highlights of the spending plan, dubbed the "It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget". The improving economy and a projected $1.2 billion budget surplus were the basis for the Governor’s call for $500 million in tax cuts and fees.
The major issues touted by the Governor in his budget outline centered around a vehicle registration fee cut of $401 million (as part of the promised $500 million tax cut) and a $542 million increase above the 2013-14 funding level for public school spending.
The Governor’s Budget Recommendations reflected his policy proposals as presented to the House and Senate leadership and budget writers for consideration as they looked to negotiate the final Appropriations Act.
Components of Governor’s Election-Year Proposal to Cut Taxes and Fees by over $500 Million
Vehicle Registration Fee Cuts. A $401 million proposal to cut present vehicle registration fees to pre-2009 registration rates. In 2009, a measure was passed that raised vehicle registration fees 54 percent.
Reduction in Commercial Business Rents. A $100 million reduction in the sales tax on commercial business rent, which costs businesses approximately $1.4 billion per year. The proposed cut would have lowered commercial lease taxes by one-half of a percentage point, with reported savings of more than $104 million annually for business owners.
Governor’s Additional Proposed Tax Cuts
Corporate Filing Fee Cut. A $33 million tax cut to corporate filing fees for businesses who annually file with the Florida Department of State’s Division of Corporations. The recommendation was aimed at streamlining all business entity filing fees for over 1.6 million business entities that file with the department.
Corporate Income Tax Reduction. A tax cut intended to increase the amount of income exempt from the corporate income tax from $50,000 to $75,000. During Governor Scott’s first year in office, he eliminated the business tax by exempting businesses with less than $25,000 in taxable income. Last year, Governor Scott raised the exemption to $50,000. State economists projected that this measure would provide a $22 million reduction in state revenue.
Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday. A 15-day sales tax holiday for hurricane preparedness supplies to begin June 1 and run through June 14, 2014. Included were such items as flashlights, batteries, weather radios, and other basic items deemed essential to building a disaster supply kit. The hurricane sales tax holiday was projected to save taxpayers $20 million.
Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday. A proposal to extend the three-day back-to-school sales tax holiday on clothes, supplies, and electronics to 10 days. For the past four years, lawmakers have approved a four-day tax holiday. The school sales tax was estimated as being a $60 million cost to state and local revenue.
Governor’s Spending Proposal Highlights
Funding for Education. Funding for K-12, state colleges, and universities including total operating funds of $18.84 billion for K-12 public schools, $2 billion for state colleges, and $3.59 billion for Florida’s public universities -- all of which would be the largest total investments in Florida’s history. Included was a $542 million increase in public school spending above the 2013-14 funding level.
Funding for Tourism Promotion. VISIT FLORIDA would receive $100 million in funding in the 2014-15 "It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget". This funding was intended for VISIT FLORIDA to pursue year-round marketing to domestic visitors, increase their marketing agenda, and assist communities in attracting direct international air service to Florida.
Funding for Workforce Initiatives. A total of $30 million in funding would be put toward new workforce training initiatives. The primary focus of the initiatives would be STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations and other high-skill/high-wage jobs.
Funding for Everglades Restoration. The sum of $130 million would be invested to continue work on Everglades restoration. This funding was part of the Governor’s $880 million long-term Everglades restoration plan.
Funding for Law Enforcement. A total of $3.2 million would be provided in funding for Florida law enforcement training. The $3.2 million for the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Trust Fund would allow the trust fund to raise the allocation from $40 to $67 per officer/student.
Funding for Child Protection Services. More than $31 million of the 2014-2015 "It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget" was committed to child protection services. An additional $8 million would go to sheriffs’ offices that conduct child protective investigative services.
Funding for Transportation. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) would receive $8.8 billion to make strategic transportation improvements throughout the state. This would fully fund the Florida Department of Transportation’s Work Program and continue vital investments in port, construction, bridge, and other transportation infrastructure improvements. Included in this funding was $138.9 million in seaport infrastructure improvements.
Funding for Springs Protection. The sum of $55 million was proposed for springs protection. Another $25 million would go towards projects proposed across the state, and $5 million would go to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for water quality and conservation.
Overview: Senate and House Recommended Budgets
Proposed budget bills passed by the House and Senate during the first week in April provided more money for education and health care, at least $500 million in tax and fee cuts, no raises for most state workers, and full funding for the state transportation work plan.
House and Senate Appropriations Committees, chaired by Rep. Seth McKeel (R-Lakeland) and Sen. Joe Negron (R-Palm City), respectively, worked to negotiate their different spending plans in time to pass a final Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2014-15 prior to the end of the Legislative Session. With a $1.2 billion budget surplus, budget writers noted that the differences between the two plans were small – especially compared to recent years.
Each chamber’s budget outline included much of Governor Rick Scott’s recommendations, but also made changes in some key areas. The House’s $75.3 billion plan was larger than the Senate’s $74.9 billion version, and about $1.1 billion more than the Governor’s $74.2 billion recommendation.
In his budget proposal, the Governor included a total of $18.84 billion for K-12 spending – an increase of $542 million. Also included was $1.7 billion for state colleges and $4.21 billion for universities. In comparison, the House budget spent $22.6 billion overall, with $13.1 billion going to Pre-K-12, $5.4 billion for universities and community colleges and the rest to early learning and other education programs. The House proposed a $741 million increase for public schools. The Senate planned $22.3 billion in education spending, including $13 billion for preK-12 and $5.4 billion for higher education with a $651 million increase for public schools. Per student spending in the House would have increased by almost 3.1 percent or nearly $208 per student. The Senate proposed increasing per student funding by 2.58 percent or $175.
Health and Human Services spending came in at approximately $30.6 billion in both chambers, about $300 million more than the Governor’s plan. The Senate version included $20 million to reduce waiting lists for elderly patients looking to get into community-based care programs. The House had a similar amount to cut down the waiting list for services under the Agency for Persons with Disabilities for about 1,200 patients considered the state’s most critically needy. The Republican Majority maintained their opposition to the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to the objections of House and Senate Democrats.
The House had $3.4 billion in spending for the environment, agriculture and natural resources, with the Senate slightly more. The House’s $50 million for springs protection was short of the $55 million suggested by the Governor and paled in comparison to the $365.8 million sought by a group of senators. The House budget provided $47.7 million for agricultural water policy programs, including $34.3 million from General Revenue. The Senate budget included $20.5 million for those programs, including $7.1 million from General Revenue. For Everglades restoration, the Senate proposed $157.8 million and modifications to the Lake Okeechobee flow system. That compared to $125 million in the House budget. The state’s land conservation program, Florida Forever, got $40 million in the Senate, while the House budgeted $15 million. The Senate further provided $49 million for beach restoration with the House recommending $25 million.
The Governor’s $8.8 billion request for transportation infrastructure projects was well met by both chambers, with the House version about $100 million more and the Senate $100 million less. The Senate also gave Governor Scott $79 million of the $95 million in economic incentives he wanted to lure businesses to grow or relocate in Florida, but did not sweep any of the $226 million affordable housing trust fund money. The House started out with $60 million in incentives and raided the trust fund for $137 million. For VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism promotion arm, the House increased their budget by $27.8 million as compared to an increase of $31.5 million by the Senate. Governor Scott had recommended upping their funding by $40 million.
For most state workers, who this year saw their first raise after seven years of stagnant salaries, pay remained flat. The Senate plan included $9.7 million for raises for court system employees, but neither chamber included increases for other state workers or bonuses based on performance, as the Governor suggested.
Additionally, the House placed $2.9 billion in reserves, while the Senate set their reserved funds at $3.2 billion.
FINAL FY 2014-15 STATE BUDGET – THE NUMBERS
Lawmakers passed the 2014-15 General Appropriations Act, HB 5001, on the last day of the 2014 Legislative Session.
The final spending plan, which will take effect July 1, weighs in at $77.1 billion -- larger than the proposed House or Senate budgets and the largest in state history in raw dollars. Last year's budget totaled $74.5 billion. Additional funding in Medicaid, springing from local tax dollars used to draw down federal money, and an increase in the state's transportation work plan accounted for most of the differences between the earlier budgets and the final version.
The budget includes the highest total amount of public education funding in state history, though the per-student figure is still short of the high-water mark that schools received before the financial collapse. State universities will see $200 million divvied up based on performance -- including $100 million of new funding.
Tens of millions of dollars will flow toward protecting and restoring the Everglades and related waterways and Florida's springs. Waiting lists for state services will be trimmed -- though not enough for some critics -- and more investigators will be hired to look into allegations of child abuse.
The election-year package also makes room for $500 million in tax and fee reductions.
Budget negotiators, led by Chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Sen. Joe Negron (R-Stuart) and Rep. Seth McKeel (R-Lakeland), hammered out the final details of the budget in time to allow for the required 72-hour cooling-off period needed to end the Session on time. Years of budget cuts as a result of the recession have given way to a recovering state economy – affording lawmakers a $1.2 billion budget surplus on which many spending decisions were based. Governor Rick Scott, who has the option of exercising his line-item veto power, must approve the final budget for it to take effect.
Following is an outline of the 2014-15 General Appropriations Act.
Total Budget: Estimated $77.1 billion [$27.9 billion General Revenue (GR); $49.2 billion Trust Fund (TF)].
Total Reserves: $3.1 billion
- $1.35 billion Working Capital
- $214.5 million Budget Stabilization Transfer (Fiscal Year 2014-2015 transfer)
- $923.3 million Budget Stabilization Fund (Estimated June 30, 2014 balance based on anticipated transfers)
- $607 million Lawton Chiles Endowment Fund (Estimated June 30, 2014 balance)
Total Reserves as a Percentage of General Revenue: 10.3 percent
State Employee Compensation and Benefits
- Pay increase for State Court System employees: $8.1 million ($5.6 million GR; $2.5 million TF)
- Pay increase for Assistant State Attorneys, Assistant Public Defenders and Assistant Regional Councils: $11.3 million ($9.5 million GR; $1.8 million TF)
- Pay Increase for State Law Enforcement Officers: $11.1 million ($2.3 million GR; $8.8 million TF)
Health and Human Services
Total Budget: $31,877.9 million ($8,269.9 million GR; $23,608.1 million TF); 33,088.57 FTE
Agency for Health Care Administration
Total: $24,586.1 million ($5,478.3 million GR; $19,107.8 million TF); 1,644 FTE
- Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Program - $156.6 million TF
- Personal Needs Allowance - $18.4 million GR; $21.8 million TF(Individuals in Residential Care from $35 to $105 per month)
- Long-Term Care Managed Care Waiver Program - $5.1 million GR; $7.5 million TF (approximately 823 individuals)
- Private Duty Nursing Services Rate Increase 5% - $2.2 million GR; $3.3 million TF
- Speech, Occupational, and Physical Therapies Rate Increase 5.3% - $4.0 million GR; $6 million TF
- Medicaid Assistive Care Services Rate Increase – $3.4 million GR; 5.0 million TF
- Pediatric Physician Fees Rate Increase - $3.4 million GR; 5.0 million TF
- Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care Centers (PPECs) Rate Increase - $1.6 million GR; $2.4 million TF
Department of Elder Affairs
Total: $294.6 million ($126.5 million GR; $168.1 million TF); 440.5 FTE
- PACE Program– $5.3 million GR; $7.7 million TF (600 new slots)
- Alzheimer’s Disease Waitlist - $4 million GR (approximately 400 individuals)
- Community Care for the Elderly Program - $5 million GR (approximately 901 individuals)
- Local Elderly Meals and Community Based Programs - $5.3 million GR
- Alzheimer’s Community Services - $1.7 million GR
Agency for Persons with Disabilities
Total: $1,153.5 million ($491.7 million GR; $661.8 million TF); 2,865.5 FTE
- Transition Wait List Individuals to the Home and Community-Based Services Waiver (approximately 1,260 individuals) – $8.1 million GR, $11.9 million TF
- Fair Hearings Workload – $2.3 million GR, $2.3 million TF
- Supported Employment Services for Wait List Individuals – $.5 million GR
- Adult Day Training 2% Provider Rate Increase – $.5 million GR; $.8 million TF
- State Facilities Repairs and Maintenance – $2 million GR; $.6 million TF
- Billy Joe Rish State Park Improvements – $1 million GR
Department of Children and Families
Total: $2,884.9 million ($1,641.7 million GR; $1,243.2 million TF); 11,863.5 FTE
- Child Welfare System
- Child Protective Investigations Workload – 270 FTE; $16.1 million GR; 2.5 million TF
- Sheriff’s Child Protective Investigations – $8.1 million GR
- Community Based Care Agencies Services – $10 million GR
- Healthy Families Program Expansion – $5 million GR
- Family Intensive Treatment Teams – $5 million GR
- Human Trafficking Victim Services – $3 million GR
- Data Analytics and Information Sharing Initiative – $2 million GR
- Maintenance Adoption Subsidies – $20.2 million GR, $8.5 million TF
- Children’s Mental Health Community Action (CAT) Teams– $11.3 million GR
- Substance Abuse Services for Pregnant Women – $10 million GR
- Community Based Care Agencies – $1.3 million GR; $6 million TF
- Medicaid Eligibility System Technology Improvements – $4.8 million TF
- Adult Community Mental Health Funding – $4 million GR
- Adult/Children Community Substance Abuse Funding – $3.6 million GR
- Mental Health Transition Beds – $3 million GR
- County Criminal Justice Mental Health Grant – $3 million GR
- Domestic Violence Services – $2 million GR; $.5 million TF
- Identity/Asset Verification Services – $3 million TF
- Healthy Families Program Funding – $2 million GR
- State Mental Health Treatment Facilities Repairs and Maintenance – $2.3 million TF
Department of Health
Total: $2,844.5 million ($520.9 million GR; $2,324 million TF); 15,171.57 FTE
- Florida Cancer Center Funding - $35.9 million GR
- County Health Departments and State Laboratories Fixed Capital Repairs – $5 million GR;$13.8 million TF
- Medical Quality Assurance Licensure and Enforcement Information Database (LEID) System Upgrade – $4.4 million TF
- Early Steps Program – $3.6 million GR
- Alzheimer’s Research - $3 million GR
- Cancer Research Endowments – $2 million GR
- Ounce of Prevention – $1.9 million GR
- Waitlist for Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program Medicaid Waiver – $.2 million GR; $.4 million TF
Department of Veterans Affairs
Total: $114 million ($10.8 million GR; $103.2 million TF); 1,103.5 FTE
- Construction of New State Veterans’ Nursing Home – $11 million TF
- Maintenance and Repair of State Veterans’ Nursing Homes and Domiciliary – $7.8 million TF
- Workforce Training Grant Program – $2 million GR
- Entrepreneur Training Initiative – $1 million GR
Total Budget: $5.4 billion ($794.7 million GR; $4.6 billion TF); 20,221 FTE
Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Total: $ 1.5 billion ($185.1 million GR; $1.4 billion TF); 3,582 FTE
- Wildfire Suppression Equipment $3 million GR
- Citrus Research and Budwood Program $2 million GR and $4 million TF
- Florida Agriculture Promotion Campaign $.4 million GR and $4 million TF
- Hybrid Wetland Treatment Projects $10.5 million GR
- Lake Okeechobee Restoration Projects $10 million GR
- Agriculture Best Management Practices $8.4 million TF
- Agriculture Livestock Markets, Pavilions, and Centers $3.3 million GR
- Citrus Health Response Program $.1 million GR and $7.1 million TF
- Rural and Family Lands Protection Program $5 million TF
- Farm Share and Food Banks $2.5 million GR
- Oyster Rehabilitation & Best Management Practices $7.7 million TF
- Child Nutrition Program Grants $2.6 million TF
- State Farmers’ Markets Maintenance and Repairs $.5 million GR and 1.4 million TF
Department of Business & Professional Regulation
Total: $147.5 million ($.4 million GR; $147.1 million TF); 1,616 FTE
- Florida State Boxing Commission $.2 million GR
- Visit Florida $.5 million TF
- Unlicensed Activity Program 4 positions and $1.1 million TF
- Pari-Mutuel Laboratory Equipment Replacement $.4 million TF
Department of Citrus
Total: $52.3 million ($.5 million GR; $51.8 million TF); 55 FTE
Department of Environmental Protection
Total: $1.6 billion ($285.8 million GR; $1.3 billion TF); 3,095 FTE
- Beach Projects $25.4 million GR and $21.8 million TF
- Springs Restoration $30 million GR (includes $5m in DACS)
- Florida Keys Wastewater Treatment Plan $50 million TF
- Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin $232 million GR & TF (includes $4.2 million Water Projects for Loxahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers and $90 million in the FY 2014-2015 FDOT Work Program for Tamiami Trail)
- Florida Forever $10 million GR and $47.5 million TF
- Petroleum Tanks Cleanup Program $110 million TF
- Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) $9.4 million TF
- Drinking Water & Wastewater Revolving Loan Programs $13.5 million GR and $225.2 million TF
- Small County Wastewater Treatment Grants $21 million TF
- State Parks Maintenance & Repairs $19.7 million TF
- Local Parks $3.1 million GR and $.8 million TF
- Nonmandatory Land Reclamation $4.2 million TF
- Water Projects $88.5 million GR
- Dispersed Water Storage $10 million GR
- Water Management District Operations $5 million TF
- Management of Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) $3m TF
Department of Financial Services
Total: $325.4 million ($23.3 million GR; $302.1 million TF); 2,613 FTE
- Fire College and Arson Lab Repairs and Maintenance $3.5 million TF
- Arson Lab Information System Replacement $.3 million TF
- Florida Accounting & Information Resource (FLAIR) Replacement 22 positions and $9 million TF
- Risk Management Information System $2.2 million TF
- FSU Catastrophic Storm Risk Management Center $1 million TF
- FIU Public Hurricane Model and Wall of Wind $1.9 million TF
Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
Total: $361.3 million ($34.4 million GR; $329.9 million TF); 2,113 FTE
- Boating Infrastructure and Improvement Program $.2 million TF and $5.1 million TF
- Artificial Fishing Reef Construction $1.1 million GR and $.8 million TF
- Lionfish Bounty, Outreach, and Control $.4 million GR and $.3 million TF
- Invasive and Aquatic Plant Management $3 million TF
- Florida Conservation and Technology Center $3 million GR
- Red Tide Research $.6 million GR
- Lake Restoration $6.4 million TF
- Land Management and Improvements $2.8 million TF
Department of the Lottery
Total: $163.5 million TF; 420 FTE
- Replacement of Motor Vehicles $.9 million TF
Department of Management Services
Total: $671.3 million ($49.7 million GR; $621.6 million TF); 1,312 FTE
- Florida Facilities Pool Repairs and Maintenance $21.5 million GR and $8.2 million TF
- Facilities Management System $4 million TF
- Florida Interoperability Network and Mutual Aid $3.5 million GR
- People First Procurement Assistance $.5 million TF
- Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System Study $1 million TF
- Non-FRS Pension Benefits $.2 million GR
- Data Center Operations and Infrastructure $7.8 million ($2.1 million GR)
- Florida Commission on Human Relations Relocation $.8 million GR
- Public Employees Relations Commission Relocation $.3 million GR
Public Service Commission
Total: $25.2 million ($25.2 million TF); 283 FTE
Department of Revenue
Total: $559.4 million ($208.7 million GR; $350.7 million TF); 5,133 FTE
- Fiscally Constrained Counties $23.5 million GR
- One Stop Business Registration Portal $.8 million GR
- Aerial Photography $.2 million
Transportation Tourism and Economic Development
Total Budget: $12.17 billion ($207.96 million GR; $11.96 billion TF); 13,561.5 FTE
- Transportation Work Program - $9.2 billion TF
- Affordable Housing Programs - $167.7 million TF
- Economic Development Incentive Programs - $71 million TF
- Economic Development Partners (EFI, Visit Florida, Space Florida, etc.) - $118.9 million
- Florida Highway Patrol Law Enforcement Positions - $3.5 million; 28 FTE
- Library Grants and Assistance - $32.8 million GR
- Cultural Programs, Grants and Facilities - $55.2 million GR
- Historic Preservation Grants - $16.7 million GR
- National Guard Tuition Assistance - $3.4 million
Department of Economic Opportunity
Total: $1.1 billion ($37.4 million GR; $1.1 billion TF); 1,619.5 FTE
- Economic Development Partners – $118.9 million
- Enterprise Florida (EFI) - $8.6 million TF
- EFI – International Trade & Promotion - $6.8 million TF
- Florida Sports Foundation - $4.5 million TF
- VISIT Florida - $74 million TF
- Space Florida - $19.5 million ($2 million GR; 17.5 million TF)
- Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research - $5.5 million TF
- Economic Development Incentive Programs - $71 million TF
- Economic Development Projects and Initiatives - $13.9 million ($1 million GR; $12.9 million TF)
- Quick Response Training - $12.1 million
- Workforce Development Projects - $4.8 million ($1.2 million GR; $3.6 million TF)
- Florida Defense Support Task Force - $3.5 million
- Military Base Protection & Defense Infrastructure - $2.6 million
- Affordable Housing Programs - $167.7 million
- SHIP - $100 million ($96 million allocated to local governments; $4 million allocated for homeless programs through the Dept. of Children and Families)
- State Housing Programs, including SAIL - $67.7 million (with $10 million allocated for competitive grants for housing for the disabled)
- Community Planning – Technical Assistance to Local Governments - $1.6 million
- Housing & Community Development Projects - $42.5 million ($26.7 million GR; $15.8 million TF)
Division of Emergency Management
Total: $230.6 million ($1.9 million GR; $228.7 million TF) 157.0 FTE
- Federally Declared Disaster Funding (including state match) - $159.3 million TF
Department of State
Total: $162.5 million ($132.4 million GR; $30.0 million TF) 408.0 FTE
- State Aid to Libraries - $27.4 million GR ($22.3 million recurring)
- Library Cooperative Grants - $2 million GR
- State Touring Program - $200,000 GR
- All Major Grant Program Approved Lists are fully funded:
- Cultural & Museum Program Grants - $24. 1 million GR ($5 million is recurring)
- Culture Builds Florida - Project Grants - $1.2 million GR
- Cultural Endowment Grants - $6.9 million GR
- Cultural Facilities Grants - $10.8 million GR
- Historic Preservation Small Matching Grants - $1.8 million GR ($1.5 million is recurring)
- Historic Preservation Special Category Grants - $14.3 million GR
- Historic properties maintenance and repairs - $640,000 ($500,000 is recurring)
Department of Transportation
Total: $10.1 billion ($12.0 million GR, $10.1 billion TF) 6,504 FTE
- Transportation Work Program - $9.2 billion TF
- Highway Construction - $3.9 billion TF
- County Transportation Programs - $158 million TF
- Aviation Grants - $337 million TF
- Seaport and Intermodal Development Grants - $ 184 million TF; $12 million GR
- Public Transit and Rail Development - $9 million TF
- Coast to Coast Connector Trail - $26.5 million TF
Department of Military Affairs
Total: $100.1 million ($24.2 million GR; $75.9 million TF); 459 FTE
- Tuition Assistance for Florida National Guard - $3 million GR
- Community Outreach Programs (Forward March and About Face) - $2 million GR
- Armory Maintenance and Repair - $1.7 million GR (with an additional $12.5 million funded in SB 860, the "GI Bill")
- Camp Blanding Construction - Special Forces Headquarters - $2.5 million GR
Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
Total: $435.5 million TF; 4,414 FTE
- Florida Highway Patrol (FHP)
- 28 New FHP Law Enforcement Officers - $3.5 million TF
- Replacement of 312 FHP Pursuit Vehicles - $9 million TF
- Trooper Incidental and Court Overtime Pay - $2 million TF
Civil and Criminal Justice
Total Budget: $4.66 billion ($3.87 billion GR; $787 million TF); 44,884.25 Full Time Equivalent (FTE)
- Funds Guardian ad Litem staffing to support program’s plan to serve all children in dependency - $6.1 million GR, 105.5 FTE
- Funds Children’s Advocacy Centers services, including medical team services - $3.5 million GR
- Funds District Courts of Appeal critical maintenance and repairs, security enhancements, and partial construction of new DCA building - $10.7 million GR
- Funds the Criminal Justice Estimating Conference’s (CJEC) prison population forecast for DOC in FY 2013-14 and FY 2014-15
Department of Legal Affairs
Total: $204.8 million ($52.7 million GR; $152.1 million TF); 1,313.50 FTE
- Criminal appeals workload - $1 million GR, 10 FTE
- Civil legal assistance to improve access to justice system - $2 million GR
- Statewide prosecution - $522K GR, 2 FTE
- Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Data Mining Initiative - $1.5 million GR
Department of Corrections
Total: $2.30 billion ($2.23 billion GR; $71.3 million TF); 23,729.00 FTE
- Replacement of inmate transport vehicles - $500K GR
- Restores critical salary lapse reductions in DOC’s institutions - $9 million GR
- Officers to manage expected increase in inmate population - $22.3 million GR, 215 FTE
- Support costs needed to operate DOC facilities to house additional inmates in FY 2014-15 - $17.4 million GR, 273 FTE
- Electronic monitoring for work release inmates - $3 million GR
- Automated time and attendance system for DOC facilities - $5 million GR
- Additional 185 residential substance abuse beds - $3.3 million GR
- Critical facility maintenance and repair - $5.3 million GR
Department of Law Enforcement
Total: $259.1 million ($98 million GR; $161.1 million TF); 1,769.00 FTE
- Staffing for the increased workload in the firearm purchase verification program - $1.1 million TF, 18 FTE
- Forensic equipment upgrade - $880K GR
- Expand cybercrime capacity and capabilities – $925K, 9 FTE
- Criminal Justice Standards and Training Trust Fund shortfall - $3.9 million GR
- Final phase of the Biometric Identification System (fingerprint records system) - $1.9 million TF
Department of Juvenile Justice
Total: $551.4 million ($395.8 million GR; $155.6 million TF); 3,265.50 FTE
- Provides funds to replace lost federal funds for behavioral health overlay and health services for non-secure residential programs - $18.2 million GR
- PACE Center for Girls expansion - $2 million GR
- CINS/FINS expansion in underserved areas - $3.4 million GR
- Boys and Girls Clubs - $4.5 million GR
- Big Brothers/Big Sisters - $1.1 million GR
- Critical facility maintenance and repair - $2.9 million GR
Total: $31.3 million ($12.6 million GR; $18.7 million TF); 272.50 FTE
- Case processing support - $76K GR, 1 FTE
District Courts of Appeal
Total: $54.6 million ($36.9 million GR; $17.8 million TF); 445.00 FTE
- Three new DCA judgeships – $1.4 million GR, 12 FTE
- Critical maintenance and repairs, security enhancements, and partial construction of new DCA building - $10.1 million GR
Total: $405.5 million ($329.4 million GR; $76.1 million TF); 3,595.00 FTE
- Enhanced services at Children’s Advocacy Centers - $3.5 million GR
- Post-adjudicatory drug court - $5.5 million GR
- Veterans’ courts - $1.0 million GR
Justice Administrative Commission
Total: $93.8 million ($92.9 million GR; $939K TF); 97.00 FTE
- Staffing to improve timeliness of financial reporting and customer service - $203K GR, 3 FTE
- Case management system - $375K GR
- Flat fee increases to eight critical case types - $1.0 million GR
Guardian Ad Litem
Total: $43.4 million ($43.1 million GR; $320K TF); 695.50 FTE
- Staffing to support program’s plan to serve all children in dependency - $6.1 million GR, 105.5 FTE
Total: $425 million ($329.1 million GR; $95.9 TF); 6,079.25 FTE
- Crimes against the elderly prosecution unit - $162K GR, 3 FTE
- Drug diversion unit - $700K TF, 11 FTE
Total: $207.6 million ($172.2 million GR; $35.4 TF); 2,801.00 FTE
- Cross circuit representation pilot project - $205K GR, 2 FTE
Capital Collateral Regional Councils
Total: $8.9 million ($8.3 million GR; $609K TF); 82.00 FTE
- Workload to address increased cases in CCRC-North - $387K GR, 3 FTE
Regional Conflict Counsel
Total: $41.5 million ($40.5 million GR; $1.0 million TF); 413.00 FTE
- Due process - $300K GR
- IT infrastructure replacement - $230K GR
Total Appropriations: $18.8 billion ($14.5 billion GR; $4.3 billion TF) Total Funding - Including Local Revenues: $29.8 billion ($18.8 billion state funds; $11 billion local)
Education Capital Outlay
Total: $1.95 billion ($5.3 million GR, $539.6 million in PECO TF, $41.1 million in other TF, $1.36 billion TF in required debt service)
- Charter School Capital Outlay - $75 million PECO TF
- Public School critical repairs and maintenance - $50 million PECO TF
- Public School Special Facilities - $59.7 million PECO TF and other TF
- Florida College System projects - $107.5 million PECO TF
- Florida College System repairs and maintenance - $15 million PECO TF
- University System projects - $159.6 million PECO TF
- University System repairs and maintenance - $57.6 million PECO TF
- University funding for capital improvement fee projects - $41.1 million TF
- University Lab School maintenance - $4.8 million
- Public Broadcasting maintenance - $2.2 million
- Vocational-Technical facilities - $3 million
- School for the Deaf and Blind critical repairs and maintenance - $1.1 million PECO TF
Early Learning Services
Total: $1 billion ($555.6 million GR; $466.1 million TF)
- Voluntary Prekindergarten Program - $396.1 million GR; $54 Increase in the BSA School Readiness Program - $625.6 million ($159.5 million GR; $466.1 million TF)
Public Schools/K12 FEFP
Total Funding: $18.9 billion ($10.7 billion state funds; $8.2 billion local)
- FEFP Increase is $575 million or 3.14%
- FEFP Increase in Funds per FTE is $176 or 2.61%
- Enrollment Workload Increase - $54.5 million
- Additional Funds for Florida Retirement System Adjustments - $46.2 million GR
- No increase in millage
- High School and Middle School Industry Certifications – additional $30 million
- Digital Classrooms Allocation - $40 million
- Extended Day Program for Intensive Reading Expanded to 300 Elementary Schools – $90 million
- Funds for Dual Enrollment Instructional Materials - $10 million
Public Schools/K12 Non-FEFP
- Mentoring Programs - $23.1 million GR
- Programs to Enhance Schools and Instruction - $30 million GR
- Florida Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts - $18.4 million GR
- Superintendent’s Training - $500,000 GR; additional $500,000 for specialized training for student acceleration options
- School District Matching Grants - $4.5 million GR
- Florida School for the Deaf & Blind - $50 million ($45.4 million GR; $4.6 million TF)
Total: $538.5 million ($293.5 million GR; $196.1 million TF; $48.9 million tuition/fees)
- Workforce Development - $369.5 million ($287.1 million GR, $82.4 million TF), all tech centers and adult education programs fully funded
- CAPE Incentive Funds for Industry Certifications in Targeted Occupational Areas, including Health Science and Information Technology - $5 million GR
Florida College System
Total: $2.0 billion ($892.1 million GR; $254.9 million TF; $840.7 million tuition/fees)
- Equalization Funding - $5 million GR
- Compression Funding - $15.5 million GR
- Florida Retirement System Adjustments - $4.8 million
- GRAPE Incentive Funds for Industry Certifications in Targeted Occupational Areas, including Health Science and Information Technology - $5 million GR
State University System
Total: $4.4 billion ($2.2 billion GR; $289.9 million TF; $1.9 billion tuition/fees)
- Performance Based Funding - $200 million
- $100 million new funds GR
- $100 million reprioritization of base funds GR
- Florida Retirement System Adjustments - $7.6 million GR
- Plant Operations and Maintenance - $6.2 million
- University Research Preeminence Increase – $10 million GR
- Florida Institute for Child Welfare - $1 million
Total: $160 million GR
- Florida Resident Access Grant - Workload Increase and Student Award Level Increase for Legacy and Newly Eligible Institutions - $22.7 million
- ABLE Grant - Workload Increase and Student Award Level Increase - $2.4 million GR
- Embry Riddle - Career Academy Partnerships - $3 million GR
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities - $3.3 million additional funds GR
Student Financial Aid
Total: $476 million ($97.7 million GR, $378.3 million TF)
- Florida Student Assistance Grant Increase – $15 million ($8.5 million GR; $6.4 million TF)
- Children/Spouses of Deceased or Disabled Veterans Workload Increase - $219,783
- Florida National Merit Scholarship Incentive Program - $2.8 million GR
- Need-based educational benefits to pay living expenses during semester breaks for active duty and honorably discharged members of the Armed Forces - $1 million
- Rosewood Family Scholarship Program - Workload Increase and Award Level Increase - $196,747
Total: $250.4 million ($61.8 million GR, $188.6 million TF)
- Additional funds to eliminate the program’s waiting lists for individuals with the most significant disabilities - $44 million ($16.9 million GR, $27 million TF)
Legislative issues marked with an asterisk (*) after the bill number are considered part of the House and Senate Leadership’s Joint "2014 Work Plan Florida" Agenda.
Detailed information on the topics below can be accessed by clicking on the arrow to the left of each sub-heading.
PLEASE NOTE: When a bill approved by the Legislature is delivered to the Governor, he has 15 days to sign it, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature. Many of the bills contained in this alert have not yet gone to the Governor for consideration; thus, their final status is unknown at this time. Additionally, due to the time-sensitive release of this report, some bill texts may not yet be available in their final form (i.e., late-day amendments incorporated into texts). If you should need follow-up information, please do not hesitate to contact Greenberg Traurig’s Tallahassee Office.
Fees / Taxation / Economic Development
Major PASSED Legislation
$395 Million Tax Cut Package / Motor Vehicle License Fees / Rollback to 2009 Level: SB 156*
With an estimated $1.2 billion surplus heading into the 2014 Legislative Session, House and Senate leadership sought to provide tax relief to the "average working" state citizen. An early agreement ensued between the Governor, House Speaker, and Senate President to provide relief in the form of motor vehicle fee cuts.
These cuts, amounting to approximately $395 million in savings to Floridians, were Governor Rick Scott’s top legislative priority as he heads toward a November re-election bid. Tax and fee relief was also a joint priority of Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) who included the fee reductions as a key element of their $500 million tax and fee reduction plan – considered the hallmark of their 5-point "2014 Work Plan Florida" joint legislative agenda.
The Florida Senate and House of Representatives both unanimously passed SB 156, Motor Vehicle License Taxes, by Sen. Joe Negron (R-Palm City), which significantly cuts taxes, fees, and surcharges for motor vehicle registrations. The bill will roll back certain annual fees paid to register a motor vehicle to those paid prior to 2009. Floridians will see their registration costs reduced by $25.05 for heavy weight vehicles, $21.55 for middle weight vehicles, and $18.55 for light weight vehicles.
Annual vehicle registration fees were raised during the height of Florida’s economic decline in 2009 when legislators sought additional dollars to balance the state’s budget. General Revenue collections had fallen more than 22 percent since their high in 2005-2006, and lawmakers faced a multi-billion budget shortfall as the state absorbed the brunt of the housing bust and the onset of the Great Recession. The bill was signed by Governor Scott on April 2, 2014, and will take effect on September 1, 2014.
To view a copy of PASSED SB 156, click here.
$105 Million Tax Cut Package: HB 5601*
Negotiators in the House and Senate came to an agreement on legislation cutting taxes by $105 million. The tax cut package, HB 5601, is the last piece in this year’s $500 million tax cut goal agreed to by the Governor, Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). The Governor had already approved SB 156, reducing vehicle registration and title fees by $395 million, with the average car registration seeing a $25 fee cut. The goal was to provide tax relief that would impact Florida’s citizens themselves.
- Expands the amount of credits available under the New Markets Tax Credit program by $37.54 million, from $178.8 million to $216.34 million.
- Delays the repeal of the Community Contributions Tax Credit program for one year and increases the credits available for affordable housing.
- Amends the statutory definition of "prepaid calling arrangement" to provide that certain prepaid mobile communications services are subject to state and local sales taxes instead of state and local communications services taxes.
- Allows sales tax dealers to receive credits or refunds of sales taxes paid on purchases made with uncollectable private-label credit card accounts.
- Revises the calculation of the premium tax imposed on bail bond premiums so that the tax rate is applied only to the amount of the premium received by the insurance company, excluding amounts retained by the bail bondsman.
- Revises the calculation of the premium tax imposed on title insurance premiums so that the tax rate is applied only to the amount of the premium received by the insurance company, excluding amounts retained by the title insurance agent or agency.
- Increases the percentage of cigarette tax revenue distributed to the Moffitt Cancer Center from 2.75% to 4.04%.
- Reduces the sales tax rate on electricity purchases by 2.65 percentage points, from 7% to 4.35% and creates an additional Gross Receipts Tax rate on electricity purchases of 2.6%, thereby increasing the combined Gross Receipts tax rate on these purchases from 2.5% to 5.1%. The effect of these changes is to provide a small tax reduction to purchasers of electricity and deposit additional revenues in the Public Education Capital Outlay Trust Fund to be used for construction and maintenance of educational facilities.
- Allows a local government to repeal or reduce local business taxes without having to establish an equity study commission.
- Creates three temporary "tax holiday" periods where sales of certain goods will be exempt from the sales tax:
- 3-day "back to school" holiday, beginning August 1, 2014, and ending August 3, 2014. During the holiday, clothing, school supplies, and certain computers within specified monetary limits are exempt from the state sales tax and county discretionary sales surtaxes;
- 9-day hurricane supplies holiday, for the period beginning on May 31, 2014, and ending on June 8, 2014; and
- 3-day energy-efficient products holiday for the period beginning on September 19, 2014, and ending on September 21, 2014, for the first $1,500 of the sales price for a new ENERGY STAR product or WaterSense product.
- Creates a 3-year sales tax exemption for cement mixing drums.
- Creates a permanent sales tax exemption for child restraint systems and booster seats for use in motor vehicles.
- Creates a permanent sales tax exemption for bicycle helmets marketed for use by youth.
- Creates a permanent sales tax exemption for therapeutic pet foods available through a licensed veterinarian.
- Creates a permanent sales tax exemption for college meal plans.
The bill will take effect upon becoming law unless otherwise provided in the legislation.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the immediate release of this report after the close of Session, the final version of this legislation was not available at the time of publication. Please contact the Tallahassee Greenberg Traurig office should you need a copy of the bill as passed.
Prepaid Calling Arrangements: HB 5601*
Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) filed SB 712 this year that updates the sales tax definition for prepaid calling arrangements by including that other types of applications are also now sold as wireless prepaid service, and by stating that the service must be paid for in advance; that prepaid services must be sold in predetermined units (minutes, days or a month) or dollars; and, that the service expires after predetermined units or dollars are used unless more money is added. A companion measure, HB 847, was filed by Rep. Daniel Davis (R-Jacksonville). Although these bills did not advance through the entire process for final passage, the provisions of the bills were included in the comprehensive tax package agreed to between the House and Senate, HB 5601. Additionally, HB 5601 provides that certain prepaid mobile communications services are subject to state and local sales taxes instead of state and local communications services taxes.
Nationally, all prepaid services are taxed under the sales and use tax by the retailer in the store or at the point of sale, as it is very difficult for retailers to know where the service will be used. Historically, Florida has taxed prepaid service via the state sales tax. However, the Department of Revenue recently stated that the Communications Services Tax (CST) would apply to these arrangements, given you can buy multiple types of service via prepaid. Under this approach, wireless prepaid taxes would more than double to over sixteen percent.
Wireless prepaid service is typically sold in the form of a prepaid "refill" card. These cards are most often sold at local gas stations, retail stores, or wireless stores. Seventy-five percent of all prepaid units are sold in third-party retail stores, with most sales being cash transactions. In addition, consumers can also purchase additional minutes for prepaid phones online or over the phone using a credit card.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the immediate release of this report after the close of Session, the final version of this legislation was not available at the time of publication. Please contact the Tallahassee Greenberg Traurig office should you need a copy of the bill as passed.
New Corporate Structures: HB 685
The Legislature has fashioned two new corporate structures in Florida for the first time in 20 years, making Florida a competitive state for social entrepreneurs. HB 685, by Rep. Patrick Rooney (R-Palm Beach), creates Benefit Corporations and Social Purpose Corporations which protect management for considering the use of corporate assets to pursue, in a significant manner, public benefit goals in addition to, or even as a priority over, the generally accepted corporate goal of profit maximization. The new forms of corporation are similar -- the primary difference being that Social Purpose Corporations have a specified social purpose or purposes designated in advance, whereas Benefit Corporations are created for a general public benefit in a manner selected by management and assessed by a third-party standard. Further, since there is a hybrid of goals in these new corporations, the profit-making ability distinguishes Social Purpose and Benefit Corporations from charities and from not-for-profit corporations. The two new structures do not appear capable of being 501(c)(3) corporations and will likely still be subject to federal income taxes as well as state income taxes.
Additionally, the bill specifies differences which are not considered a distinguishing factor when determining if the name of a limited liability company, profit corporation, nonprofit corporation, or limited partnership is distinguishable from the names of all other entities or filings within records of the Department of State.
A companion measure was filed by Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth). If approved by the Governor, the bill will take effect on July 1, 2014.
To view a copy of PASSED HB 685, click here.
Tax Credit Scholarship Program: SB 850*
An expansion of the state's de facto voucher system, called the "Tax Credit Scholarship Program", passed this Session after months of negotiation between the House and Senate. The bill was a priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) and part of the joint House-Senate "Work Plan" backed by the Speaker and Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville). Passage of the bill marked a major victory for the Speaker who primarily pushed the expansion.
The Tax Credit Scholarship Program provides tax breaks to companies that donate money to nonprofit entities that pay for low-income children to go to private schools. They receive tax credits against corporate income taxes, insurance premium taxes, and similar charges. Under an original version of the bill, retailers would have been allowed to divert sales tax payments to the system instead of the state. The language was deleted during the committee process.
The Legislature signed off on a plan that expands the program to middle class students and offers savings accounts to students with disabilities. The bill, SB 850 by Sen. John Legg (R-Lutz), combines the far-reading tax credit scholarship expansion plan offered by the House and the supplemental scholarships for disabled students offered by the Senate. Under the bill as approved, a family of four earning up to $62,010 a year will be eligible for at least a partial scholarship, a nearly $20,000 boost from the current $43,568 annual income limit. The value of each individual scholarship will also rise.
The bill also met a demand by President Gaetz to include accountability measures. Legislators agreed to provide testing and analysis of results conducted by the Florida State University Learning Systems Institute. However, under the bill students would not be required to take the state test developed for public schools – an issue that was heavily debated through the process.
The voucher legislation was left for dead in April after the Senate abruptly shelved an original proposal by Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), SB 1620. Following, the House progressively watered down its proposal as the Senate refused to allow the measure to progress. The original legislation, HB 7099 by Rep. Ritch Workman (R-Melbourne), and a revised version, HB 7167 by Rep. Erik Fresen (R-Miami), were among the most-ambitious efforts to expand the program in years.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the immediate release of this report after the close of Session, the final version of this legislation was not available at the time of publication. Please contact the Tallahassee Greenberg Traurig office should you need a copy of the bill as passed.
Department of Economic Development: HB 7023
HB 7023, by Rep. Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast), increases tax credits for companies hiring in rural areas, funnels development grants to small cities, and directs Space Florida to consult with VISIT FLORIDA to develop a space tourism marketing plan. The original version of the bill contained a provision that exempted commercial developments of less than 6,000 square feet and fewer than twelve employees from being subject to local impact fees or traffic concurrency requirements.
On May 1, the Senate adopted an amended version of the bill that did not contain the impact fee exemption. The Chamber also repealed a requirement that applicants for unemployment benefits must take a skills test and added language to the bill creating a "microfinance" loan program at the Department of Economic Opportunity with a $10.1 million appropriation. The Senate further amended HB 7023 to extend state environmental permits issued in 2014 or 2015 for two additional years.
The measure passed in the Senate by a 38-0 vote, and the House passed the amended bill with a 113-0 vote. A companion measure, SB 1634, was filed by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee which is chaired by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice). The bill received favorable votes in its committees of reference.
HB 7023 awaits the Governor’s approval and will take effect on July 1, 2014.
National Retail Sales Tax: SM 118
SM 118, by Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla), urges Congress to enact H.R. 25, the Fair Tax Act of 2013, which would impose a national retail sales tax and eliminate the federal personal income tax, the alternative minimum tax, the estate tax, the gift tax, the capital gains tax, the federal corporate income tax, the self-employment tax, and the employee and employer payroll tax. An identical House companion, HM 15, was filed by Rep. Charles Van Zant (R-Palatka).
The resolution stipulates that the current federal taxation regime retards economic growth and the country’s international competiveness. It further states that the current system is inequitable and imposes unnecessary administrative and compliance costs on both individual and business taxpayers. As such, SM 118 recommends the repeal of the 16th Amendment to the Federal Constitution. The 16th Amendment grants Congress the power to lay and collect taxes on "income, from whatever source derived," and eliminates the previous requirement that all direct federal taxes be apportioned by population.
In the alternative, SM 118 calls for the imposition of a national sales tax. It provides that the imposition of such tax would promote fairness and reduce administrative burdens faced by American taxpayers. SM 118 recommends that Congress consider administering and collecting the national sales tax at the state level in return for a reasonable administration fee to the states.
Copies of this memorial will be dispatched to the President of the United States, the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and to each member of the Florida delegation to the United States Congress.
To view a copy of PASSED SM 118, click here.
Major FAILED Legislation/Issues Which May Recur in 2015
Entertainment Industry Incentives: SB 1734 / HB 983
Since 2010, Florida has shown great success in attracting major film, television, commercial, and digital production to the state. Over that period, the state has offered nearly $300 million in tax credits in order to lure productions away from the traditional entertainment hubs of California and New York state. Independent estimates state that for every dollar in tax credit that Florida invests, it receives a return on investment of $5.60, with some studies suggesting it might be as high as $20.50 for every incentive dollar invested. Over 160,000 jobs have been created in the same timeframe by the entertainment industry, which is forecasted to have a $4.1 billion impact on the state economy. SB 1734, by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, aimed to restructure the incentive program, as well as reseed the tax credit funding.
The bill transferred the Department of Economic Opportunity’s Office of Film and Entertainment, including the Commissioner of Film and Entertainment and the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council, to Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) in Orlando. The office would have been established as the Division of Film and Entertainment within EFI and maintained its current responsibilities, with the exception of administering the entertainment industry economic development programs, which remains the responsibility of the Department.
The bill also made several changes to the Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive Program, which included:
- Extending the incentive program an additional 4 years and providing an additional $50 million in tax credits for each fiscal year beginning Fiscal Year 2014-15 through 2019-20, for a total of $300 million in available tax credits.
- Requiring a production to provide proof of a cash match from each county in which principal photography or project production occurred.
- Repealing the tax credit bonus for underutilized regions. Instead of the tax credit bonus, the bill created a set-aside of 20 percent of the tax credits in the general production queue for underutilized counties. Any funds not certified after 10 months into the fiscal year became available for certification for other applications in the queue.
- Amending the tax credit bonus for wages paid to Florida students and recent graduates to include wages paid to state residents that were participating in the Road to Independence Program, had developmental disabilities, or were veterans.
- Creating a tax credit bonus of 5 percent for productions that completed a capital investment of at least $2 million before the completion of the qualified production.
- Repealing the tax credit bonuses for "off-season" certified productions, for productions that conducted principal photography at a qualified production facility, and for family-friendly certified theatrical or direct-to-video movies and video games.
SB 1734 died in the Senate Appropriations Committee after passing favorably out of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. The House companion measure, HB 983 by Rep. Manny Diaz (R-Hialeah), was not heard in committee.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1734, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 983, click here.
Commercial Lease Tax: SB 176 / HB 11
As part of his recommended budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2014-15, Governor Rick Scott called for a $100 million reduction in the commercial lease tax that now generates about $1.4 billion a year in revenue for the state. Specifically, the recommendation reduced the tax on commercial leases by one half of a percentage point. This reduction, combined with the Governor’s $400 million reduction in car registration fees (passed and signed into law as SB 156), totaled the Governor’s commitment to eliminate $500 million in taxes and fees. The proposal was not included as part of the tax cut package of the House or Senate.
Earlier, two measures had been filed also addressing the tax. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax Chairman Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange) filed SB 176 that would have reduced the commercial lease tax from 6 percent to 5 percent. State economists projected that SB 176 would have cut state revenue about $235.6 million and local revenue by $20.2 million in the first year. The bill did not receive a committee hearing. Last year, the Senator filed legislation to phase out the tax over six years.
Additionally, Rep. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) filed HB 11, which was similar to Sen. Hukill’s 2013 proposal in that it reduced the tax yearly until eventual repeal. This bill also never received a hearing.
Business groups strongly lobbied for tax relief in this area citing that Florida is the only state imposing the tax.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 176, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 11, click here.
Communications Services Tax: SB 266
SB 266, by Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax, reduced the state portion of the communications services tax (CST) rate by 0.58 percent, from 6.65 percent to 6.07 percent. It also reduced the tax rate on direct-to-home satellite services from 10.8 percent to 10.22 percent. The legislation changed the distribution of direct-to-home satellite CST revenue to ensure that local governments continued to receive the same amount of revenue as they do under current law. The bill passed favorably out of two committees.
The CST reduction proposal became a negotiated issue between the House and Senate in their tax cut package, HB 5601 by Rep. Ritch Workman (R-Melbourne) and Chair of the House Finance and Tax Subcommittee. Although the House did not originally include the CST issue in the filed bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee amended the measure to reduce the CST rate by 0.52 percent. However, during the final negotiation process, lawmakers removed the issue from consideration and included other tax cut measures instead.
Sen. Joe Negron, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that he hoped to address a CST tax reduction next year. Because Florida continues to have some of the highest CST taxes levied upon satellite cable services in the nation, it is expected that efforts will continue to substantially reduce the CST, if not abolish it altogether.
To view a copy of SB 266, click here.
Corporate Income Tax Exemption: SB 134
Over the past several years, Governor Rick Scott has included in his budget recommendations an increase in the exemption from the state's corporate income tax with the goal of eventually eliminating the tax altogether. This year was no different with his proposal to up the exemption from $50,000 to $75,000. The measure was part of the Governor’s election-year plan to cut over $500 million in fees and taxes.
The plan would have eliminated the tax for 2,163 corporate taxpayers that have net incomes between $50,000 and $75,000, while benefiting another 11,501 that have net incomes topping the $75,000 mark.
The issue became part of the final Session negotiations when the House proposed the measure in their comprehensive tax-cutting package, HB 5601 by Rep. Ritch Workman (R-Melbourne), Chair of the House Finance and Tax Committee. The proposal, at a cost of $30.4 million, was a component of the total House tax-cut plan -- offered to the Senate to supplement the already-passed $395 million in cuts to roll back auto registration fees. The goal was to reach the mutually-agreed-upon $500 million in tax cuts between the House, Senate, and Governor. The Senate, in turn however, did not include the measure in their proposal back to the House, and the exemption increase failed to be part of the final agreement between Chambers.
A separate bill on this issue, SB 134, had already been filed by Sen. Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax. The measure advanced through two committees with favorable votes.
The corporate tax exemption was raised from $5,000 to $25,000 in 2011and to $50,000 effective January 1, 2013.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 134, click here.
Qualified Television Fund: SB 1438 / HB 1391
The Qualified Television Fund (QTV) legislation, SB 1438 by Sen. Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville), aimed to create an evergreen fund that was privately managed under state oversight to administer short-term loans for production of qualified television content. The purpose of the QTV Fund was to incentivize the use of the state as a location for television content production and to develop and sustain the workforce and infrastructure for television content production. A competitively-selected fund administrator would have administered the QTV Fund and partnered with a qualified lending partner to make loans to qualified television producers to fund production costs of qualified television content in Florida. The fund administrator would have been allowed to raise private investment capital for concurrent lending through the QTV Fund. State funds and private investment capital would have been subordinate debt to the qualified lending partner’s investment. All state funds would have been segregated from any private investment capital.
The bill originally appropriated $20 million from the General Revenue Fund for the program, but met resistance from legislators who questioned this model as a viable and unproven way to attract entertainment business to Florida. The appropriation was stripped, and efforts to later amend the structure of the proposed program onto the state’s tax-cut package also failed. A companion measure, HB 1391, was filed by Rep. "Doc" Renuart (R-Ponte Vedra Beach).
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1438, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 1391, click here.
Internet Sales Tax Collections: SM 196 / HM 1415 / HB 217 / SB 818 / HB 857
Lawmakers for years have looked at taxing online or remote sales as a possible source of tax revenue, but have been unable to agree on a measure that some members fear could be viewed as a tax increase. That was particularly true during the 2014 Legislative Session with it being an election year and having a projected $1.2 billion revenue surplus as budget writers crafted the next fiscal year’s spending plan. House and Senate leadership looked for tax and fee cuts as opposed to anything that could be perceived as an increase.
A Senate Memorial, SM 196 by Sen. Gwen Margolis (D-Miami), was filed this year to urge Congress to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 which grants states the authority to require online and catalog retailers ("remote sellers"), regardless of their location, to collect sales tax at the time the transaction is made in the same manner as local retailers. The goal is to level the playing field with in-state "brick and mortar" businesses. The memorial failed a voice vote on the Senate Floor. The similar House companion, HM 1415 by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee), was never heard in committee.
Additionally, Rep. Rehwinkel Vasilinda filed HB 217 relating to the Streamlined Sales and Use Agreement (SSUTA). The Agreement is aimed at simplifying the state’s sales tax laws to make multi-state collections on online sales easier. This was the sixth year that Rep. Rehwinkel Vasilinda filed the SSUTA bill. Other similar bills filed relating to the SSUTA included SB 818 by Sen. Gwen Margolis (D-Miami) and HB 857 by Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg). None of these bills received a hearing during the 2014 Session.
Each year, internet sales tax collection measures have had the support of the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, the National Federation of Independent Business in Florida, and Florida TaxWatch.
On April 16, Amazon said that they would begin collecting Florida sales tax on May 1 – required by establishing a physical state presence. The online company is constructing a warehouse and distribution center in Ruskin, Florida, near Tampa.
To view a copy of FAILED SM 196, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HM 1415, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 217, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 818, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 857, click here.
Major PASSED Legislation/Issues
Nursing Home Certificates of Need: HB 287
The Legislature approved HB 287 by Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami) which repeals the moratorium on Certificates of Need (CONs) for new nursing homes and for additional nursing home beds to an existing nursing home. The 2001 Legislature instituted a moratorium on CONs for additional beds, with some exceptions, until July 1, 2006. In 2006, the moratorium was re-enacted. It was re-enacted again in 2011 with the provision that the moratorium would last until October 1, 2016, or until the statewide Medicaid managed care program was fully implemented. This program is required to be completed by October 1, 2014.
HB 287 allows for an expedited review of a CON application for the replacement of a nursing home either (1) within a 30-mile radius of the existing nursing home, regardless of healthcare planning districts, or the geographic location of the majority of the current nursing home’s residents, or (2) outside of a 30-mile radius of the existing nursing home if the new nursing home will be within the same sub-district or a contiguous sub-district. The expedited review is also allowed for a nursing home that is relocating a portion of its beds, within the same district or a contiguous district, to an established facility or to a new facility.
The bill provides that a nursing home would be exempt from CON review if it meets one of the following criteria:
- Adding up to either 30 beds or 25 percent of its current beds, whichever is less, when replacing its facility;
- Reducing the required average occupancy rate from 96 to 94 percent for a facility to add a number of beds equal to the greater of no more than 10 beds or 10 percent of the facility’s current licensed beds;
- Increasing the distance a replacement nursing home may be located from the current nursing home to up to five miles, rather than three miles, and clarifying that such a move must remain within the same sub-district; and
- Allowing the consolidation of multiple licensed nursing homes with any shared controlled interest or the transfer of beds between such nursing homes if all of the nursing homes are within the same planning district, rather than sub-district. The site of relocation must be within 30 miles of the original sites, and the total number of nursing home beds in the planning district may not increase.
Finally, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is restricted from issuing any further CONs for nursing home beds once 3,750 total new beds have been approved due to the bill’s provisions. If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1, 2014.
To view a copy of PASSED HB 287, click here.
Pharmacy Audits: SB 702
SB 702, by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville), establishes various rights of a pharmacy when it is audited by an insurer, managed care organization, third-party payor, pharmacy benefit manager, or an entity that represents groups that self-insure. The rights created in the bill are similar to the requirements currently applicable to Medicaid audits of pharmacies.
However, the measure would not apply to audits based on suspicion of fraud, willful misrepresentation evidenced by a physical review, review of claims data or statements, other investigative methods; audits of claims paid for by federally-funded programs; or concurrent reviews or desk audits that occur within three business days after transmission where no chargeback or recoupment is demanded.
A companion measure HB 745, was filed by Rep. Travis Cummings (R-Orange Park). If approved by the Governor, the bill will take effect on October 1, 2014.
To view a copy PASSED SB 702, click here.
Pharmacy Technicians: HB 323
The Legislature approved HB 323, by Rep. Mike LaRosa (R-Saint Cloud), which removes the cap of three pharmacy technicians that the Board of Pharmacy may authorize one pharmacist to supervise. The bill also revises the Board by increasing the number of pharmacists representing both community and institutional class II pharmacies from a minimum of one in each category, to a minimum of two each. Further, the bill authorizes pharmacists to administer the meningococcal vaccine and removes the requirement for a pharmacist to have a prescription from a physician to administer the shingles vaccine. If approved by the Governor, the bill will take effect on July 1, 2014.
Major FAILED Legislation/Issues Which May Recur in 2015
Telemedicine: HB 751 / SB 1646
The House and Senate advanced very different versions of proposals aimed at increasing the use of telemedicine to provide care to Floridians this Session. In the end, neither version was approved. The House proposal, HB 751 by Reps. Travis Cummings (R-Orange Park) and Mia Jones (D-Jacksonville), would have allowed an out-of-state health care provider to provide health care services to a Floridian as long as the provider registered with the applicable practice board or with the Department of Health. Out-of-state providers would have been exempt from registering with the state if the service being provided was during an emergency situation, in consultation with a Florida licensed health care provider, and if the provider did not provide this type of service more than 10 times per year. The House measure was supported by health insurers and the business community.
The Senate proposal, SB 1646 by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville), was supported by the Senate President and the Florida Medical Association. It would have allowed only physicians and osteopathic physicians to provide services through telemedicine. It would have also required out-of-state physicians providing services through telemedicine to hold a license in a state with licensure requirements that met or exceeded Florida’s standards. The out-of-state provider also would have been required to maintain professional liability coverage specifically covering telemedicine services or practice in a state that allows Florida physicians to provide telemedicine services within that state. Further, the physician also would have had to be affiliated with a Florida licensed out-of-state insurer or an out-of-state hospital affiliated with a Florida hospital.
In the final days of Session, the House added their proposal to a large health care train that contained provisions supported in the Senate. But on the last day, the Senate stripped the telemedicine language and added other provisions opposed by the House which led to the ultimate demise of the issue.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 751, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1646, click here.
Trauma Services: HB 7105
Attempts by Florida lawmakers to resolve a long-running dispute about the state's trauma system failed to materialize during the final hours of the annual Legislative Session. The House and Senate sought to ensure that three disputed trauma centers in Manatee, Pasco and Marion counties remain open. But the issue became tangled in broader health-care bills, and lawmakers could not resolve their differences.
The issue focused on trauma facilities at Blake Medical Center in Manatee County, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County, and Ocala Regional Medical Center in Marion County that the Florida Department of Health approved to open in 2011 and 2012.
Some major hospitals in the Tampa Bay and Gainesville areas challenged the approvals, and judges found that the Department used an invalid rule in making its decisions. That has spurred a series of additional legal cases that could threaten the continued operation of the three trauma centers.
Also, the disputes prompted the Department of Health to draw up a new rule proposal for approving trauma centers. But that proposal has also drawn legal challenges.
The idea was also pushed by the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) health-care chain, which includes the Manatee, Pasco and Marion hospitals. But critics of the department's decision-making have raised concerns about care being diluted if too many trauma centers are allowed to open. They say trauma centers, which are costly to operate and rely on highly trained staff, need certain volumes of patients.
To view a copy of the FAILED Trauma Service Amendment to HB 7105, click here.
Step Therapy / Fail First Protocol / Prior Authorization: SB 1354
SB 1354, by Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring), was ultimately defeated this Session. The bill would have required health insurers (including those participating in the State’s Medicaid Managed Care Plan) that use step-therapy or a fail-first protocol for prescription medications to grant an override of the protocol if a provider simply "believed" the drug under the insurer’s protocol was likely to be ineffective. Insurers use these processes to ensure care is provided in the most efficient and cost effective manner. The bill language would have significantly increased the overrides that would have been requested and would have resulted in higher health care costs. Those costs would have been reflected in higher health insurance premiums for employers and employees. The measure was strongly opposed by Associated Industries of Florida.
The bill also would have placed greater regulation on health insurers (including Medicaid Managed Care Plans) by requiring the use of a standardized prior authorization form adopted by the Florida Financial Services Commission (Commission). Further, the proposal would have automatically deemed a prior authorization request approved unless the issuer responded otherwise within two business days.
The bill contained language that would have further increased the cost of the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care Program by requiring health plans with prescribed drug formularies to provide at least two drug options in each therapeutic class. It also would have required the plans to cover any drugs newly approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) until the Medicaid Pharmaceutical and Therapeutics Committee could review the drug for inclusion in the state’s formulary.
The Senate continued to push this legislation, which was the number one priority of the Florida Medical Association, even when staff analyses reported the measure would likely have a significant cost impact on the State’s Medicaid Program and on private employers. In the final days of Session, the Senate tacked the language onto several heath care packages, including a trauma bill that would have grandfathered in three Hospital Corporation of America (HCA)-owned trauma centers and created a one-year moratorium on new centers. But in the end, the measure died.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1354, click here.
Assisted Living Facility Regulation: HB 573*
Legislation addressing assisted living facility regulation was considered but failed to pass during the Session. This is the third year the Legislature considered measures affecting assisted-living facilities -- prompted by a series of articles by the Miami Herald in 2011.
The legislation made major improvements to regulation of assisted living facilities by allowing the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to impose an immediate moratorium on an unsafe facility, doubling fines, and requiring additional inspections for repeat offenders. The bill also required new employees to attend additional pre-service orientation, assured that residents with mental health needs received services, specified fines for failing to conduct background screenings on employees, increased applicable staff training for assistance with self-medication, required a study of the survey and inspection process to ensure consistency, and permitted AHCA to revoke a facility’s license when the license of a financially-related facility had been revoked.
The bill further revised the structure for determining the fine amounts for all classes of violations depending on whether the violation was isolated, patterned or widespread, similar to the statutory approach used for nursing home violations. Finally, the bill required AHCA to establish a rating system for ALFs and to create a webpage for people to post comments about ALFs.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 573, click here.
Scope of Practice / Advanced Practice Registered Nurses: HB 7071 / HB 7113 / SB 1352
To address the impending health care workforce shortage in Florida, the House pushed for comprehensive changes to and expansion of the services that can be provided by Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). In the end, opposition by the Senate President and the Florida Medical Society resulted in its failure.
The language would have authorized certified nurse practitioners (CNPs) to prescribe, dispense, order, or administer controlled substances, if allowed under a supervising physician’s protocol and only to the extent the supervising physician is authorized to prescribe, dispense, order, or administer those controlled substances. It also would have allowed CNPs who meet certain criteria to register with the Board of Nursing to practice specified advanced or specialized nursing practices without physician supervision or a protocol as "independent nurse practitioners" (INPs).
To register as an INP, the person would have been required to hold an active and unencumbered ARNP certificate and a national nurse practitioner certificate, pay an application fee, and must have:
- Completed, in any U.S. jurisdiction, at least 2,000 clinical practice hours within a three-year period immediately prior to applying for registration;
- Not been subject to any disciplinary action during the five years immediately preceding the application; and
- Completed a graduate level course in pharmacology.
INPs would have been authorized to perform any act currently authorized for CNPs, but could also perform services without the supervision of a physician or a written protocol. In addition to those services, an INP could have independently and without supervision or a written protocol performed the following acts:
- Admit, discharge, or manage the care of, a patient in a health care facility;
- Provide a signature, certification, verification, that is otherwise required by law to be provided by a physician;
- Certify causes of death and sign, correct, and file death certificates;
- Act as a patient’s primary care provider;
- Execute a certificate to subject a person to involuntary examination under the Baker Act; and
- Examine and approve the release of a person admitted into a receiving facility under the Baker Act.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 7071, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 7113, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1352, click here.
Scope of Practice / Physician Assistants: HB 1275 / SB 1230
HB 1275, by Rep. Larry Ahern (R-Seminole), and SB 1230, by Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla), streamlined the administrative procedures for Physician Assistants (PAs) pursuing licensure and also for those seeking prescribing authority. The bills did not pass during Legislative Session. The measures would have required PAs to certify that they have completed continuing education rather than the current practice of signing an affidavit in order to obtain prescribing privileges. Further, PA applicants would no longer be required to submit two letters of recommendation to be eligible for licensure. Applicants seeking initial licensure on or after January 1, 2015, would submit fingerprints for background screening. Additional provisions in the bill included:
- Increasing the number of PAs a physician may supervise from four to eight, except for physicians supervising dermatological services at an office other than the physician’s primary practice location.
- Allowing MDs or DOs without board certification or board eligibility in dermatology or plastic surgery to supervise PAs performing certain aesthetic skin care services if the PA has specialized post-licensure training in skin conditions and procedures.
- Requiring a PA to have a designated supervising physician and to notify the Department of Health (DOH) of changes in the designated supervising physician within 30 days after the change. The requirement to have a designated supervising physician does not prevent a PA from practicing under multiple supervising physicians.
- Allowing prescriptions to be in written or electronic form, as long as they are in compliance with prescription labeling information requirements.
HB 1275 died in Senate Messages after passing the House by a vote 100-19. SB 1230 passed favorably out of only one of its three committees of reference.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 1275, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1230, click here.
Mental Health First Aid: HB 159 / SB 574
HB 159, by Rep. Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach), and its companion, SB 574 by Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood), required the Department of Children and Families to establish a mental health first aid training program. The measure’s aim was to train individuals to identify and understand the signs of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders and help persons who were developing or experiencing a mental health or substance use problem.
The Legislature, in recent years, has placed a growing emphasis on preventative care and services -- recognizing that it is much more costly to the state and society to wait to deal with these issues via the criminal justice system. The bill directed that training be provided through certified contract providers and that priority for the training be given to the staff of educational institutions, then first responders.
HB 159 passed the House by a vote of 116-1. SB 574, however, died in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
To view of a copy of FAILED HB 159, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 574, click here.
Medical Tourism: SB 1150 / HB 1223 / HB 7113
In an attempt to expand Florida’s economy and make the state more attractive to visitors, the Legislature appropriated a total of $5 million to promote Florida as a health care destination. However, legislation which would have directed Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA to develop a plan to increase medical tourism in Florida was not approved before the Session ended.
SB 1150, by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville), and HB 1223, by Rep. Pat Rooney (R-Palm Beach Gardens), called for VISIT FLORIDA to integrate medical tourism into its four-year marketing plan and to create a matching grant program for economic development organizations to create targeted medical tourism marketing initiatives. Late in the Session, this language was added to HB 7113, the House Health Care package filed by the Health Innovation Subcommittee, which was chaired by Rep. Jason Brodeur (R- Sanford). HB 7113 failed to pass in the final days of Session after the bill was amended by the Senate and not taken up again by the House.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1150, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 1223, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 7113, click here.
Medicaid Expansion: HB 869 / SB 710
No action was taken during the 2014 Session on the issue of Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act. This controversial issue, debated during the 2013 Session, was not brought up for consideration due to the continued opposition by the Republican majority – much to the dismay of House and Senate Democrats.
The federal health care reform act called for states to expand eligibility in the Medicaid program and committed to fund 100 percent of the cost of the expansion for three years beginning in 2014 and then 90 percent of the cost until 2020.
During the 2013 Legislative Session, the Legislature rejected the expansion, and each Chamber sought to advance alternative proposals. The Senate supported using federal funds to establish a state premium assistance program to help low-income Floridians purchase private health insurance coverage. The House wanted to create a program for low income parents under 100 percent of the federal poverty level, jointly funded with enrollee contributions and state funding.
Due to the Legislature’s refusal to expand Medicaid eligibility, a gap now exists between low income Floridians who qualify for Medicaid and those who qualify for federal exchange subsidies. A Kaiser Commission report has estimated that over 700,000 Floridians will fall into this gap.
Legislation was filed this year to again put forth the Senate plan which was previously opposed by the House. HB 869 by Rep. Amanda Murphy (D-New Port Richey) and SB 710 by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah) were companion bills that never received a hearing in either Chamber.
Republican Governor Rick Scott previously objected to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, but on the eve of the 2013 Legislative Session, came out in support of the plan under enumerated circumstances. This year, with a tough re-election campaign in front of him, the Governor did not make public statements concerning any push for revisiting the issue.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 869, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 710, click here.
Energy / Environmental / Growth Management
Major PASSED Legislation
Fuel Terminals: SB 1070
SB 1070, sponsored by Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), relating to fuel terminals, passed the Legislature in the last week of Session. The House companion bill, HB 947, was sponsored by Rep. Lake Ray (R-Jacksonville). By adopting SB 1070, the Legislature recognized that Florida’s fuel terminals are critical state infrastructure. SB 1070 provides the following benefits to fuel terminals:
- Legislative intent to maintain, encourage, and ensure adequate and reliable fuel terminal infrastructure in the state.
- A declaration that:
- fuel terminals are a critical component of fuel storage and distribution.
- Florida’s ability to receive, store, and distribute fuel is essential to the state’s economy, and the health, welfare, safety, and quality of life of its residents and visitors.
- it is essential for fuel terminal infrastructure to be constructed and maintained in various locations in order to ensure the efficient and reliable transportation and delivery of an adequate quantity of fuel throughout the state.
- A broad definition of the term "fuel."
- A definition of "fuel terminal" to mean: "…a storage and distribution facility for fuel, supplied by pipeline or marine vessel, which has the capacity to receive and store a bulk transfer of fuel, is equipped with a loading rack through which fuel is physically transferred into tanker trucks or rail cars, and is registered by the Internal Revenue Service as a terminal."
- After July 1, 2014, prohibits a local government from amending its comprehensive plan, land use map, zoning districts, or land development regulations in a manner that would conflict with a fuel terminal’s classification as a permitted and allowable use, including, but not limited to, an amendment that causes a fuel terminal to be a non-conforming use, structure, or development.
- A requirement that local government authorize the timely repair of a fuel terminal which is damaged or destroyed from a natural disaster or catastrophe.
- A confirmation that the bill does not limit a local government’s authority to adopt, implement, modify, and enforce applicable federal and state requirements for fuel terminals, including safety and building standards, and local safety and building standards; however, also confirms that the exercise of such local authority may not conflict with federal or state safety and security requirements.
On an average day, Florida’s terminals receive and distribute 26 million gallons of gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel. Florida has no significant import pipelines for liquid petroleum products; therefore, the vast majority of Florida’s gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel is imported via barges. Existing fuel terminals are a critical component of Florida’s fuel infrastructure, serving as intermodal facilities for receiving, storing, and distributing fuel to end users. Thirty-nine terminals are located in, or are juxtaposed to, 11 of Florida’s major ports. Two terminals are located at Florida’s inland terminal at Taft that serves the Orlando/Central Florida area. Taft terminals are connected via the Central Florida Pipeline to Port Tampa. Distribution areas for the gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel from terminals extend through multiple counties.
If the bill becomes law, it will take effect July 1, 2014.
To view a copy of PASSED SB 1070, click here.
Brownfields: HB 325
HB 325, by Rep. Charlie Stone (R-Ocala), provides that local governments that designate brownfield areas pursuant to the Brownfields Redevelopment Act are not required to use the term "brownfield area" within the name of the area designated by the local government. Further, the bill expands protections provided to persons responsible for brownfield site rehabilitation for causes of action accruing on or after July 1, 2014. Specifically it:
- Provides relief from liability for claims of property damages, including but not limited to diminished value of real property or improvements; lost or delayed rent, sale, or use of real property or improvements; or stigma to real property or improvements caused by contamination.
- Provides that liability protection does not apply to a person who discharged contaminants on property subject to a brownfield site rehabilitation agreement; fraudulently demonstrates site conditions or fraudulently completes site rehabilitation of a property subject to a brownfield site rehabilitation agreement.
- Provides that protection does not apply to a person who exacerbates the contamination of a property and causes property damage. Lastly, the liability protection would not limit the rights of a third party other than the state to pursue an action for damages to persons for bodily harm.
The bill also revises the process for designating brownfield areas and specifies the criteria that must be met when a brownfield designation is proposed by a local government, or a person other than a governmental entity, such as an individual, corporation, community-based organization, or not-for-profit corporation. A companion measure, SB 526, was filed by Sen. Thad Altman (R-Melbourne). The bill will take effect on July 1, 2014, if approved by the Governor.
To view a copy of PASSED HB 325, click here.
Growth Management: SB 374
SB 374, by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice), removes the prohibition against certain local initiatives and referendum processes as it relates to comprehensive plan amendments and map amendments. Currently, local initiatives and referendums are allowed when certain statutory conditions are met. This bill removes the statutory requirement that local initiatives or referendums must affect more than five parcels of land.
A companion measure, HB 189, was filed by Rep. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton). If approved by the Governor, the bill will take effect upon becoming law.
To view a copy of PASSED SB 374, click here.
Major FAILED Legislation/Issues Which May Recur in 2015
Developments of Regional Impact (DRIs): SB 372 / HB 241
SB 372 by Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), which would have expanded from eight to 15 the number of counties exempt from review by state agencies for designated DRIs, was not ultimately approved this Session. Specifically, the bill would have deleted two criteria for the dense urban land area (DULA) exemption:
- Any proposed development within a county, including the municipalities located in the county, that has an average of at least 1,000 people per square mile of land area and is located within an urban service area.
- Any proposed development within a county, including the municipalities located therein, which has a population of at least 900,000, that has an average of at least 1,000 people per square mile of land area, but which does not have an urban service area designated in the comprehensive plan.
Currently, eight counties and 242 municipalities satisfy the criteria for the DULA exemption. If this bill had passed, it would have added seven additional counties and 20 additional municipalities. The House companion, HB 241 by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar), was never heard in committee this Session. The bill was opposed by the Florida Association of Counties, 1000 Friends of Florida, and Sierra Club Florida.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 372, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 241, click here.
Environmental Regulation: SB 1464 / HB 703
SB 1464, by Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), providing 30-year water use permits for developments of regional impact (DRIs) and requiring that a master plan development order be included in regional water supply plans, was not approved this Session. The bill also would have:
- Provided voting requirements for the adoption or transmittal of a comprehensive plan or plan amendment;
- Encouraged counties to create a Water Well Construction Advisory Board;
- Authorized the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to approve the use of additional safety and warning devices at public beaches;
- Clarified that relief mechanisms may be granted in federally-delegated permitting programs or approved permitting programs; and
- Created a solid waste landfill closure account.
The House companion, HB 703 by Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City), was more far reaching and was opposed by cities, counties and environmentalists. The two most controversial provisions in his bill were: (1) the provision of 50-year consumptive permits for landowners who participate in water storage programs; and (2) the prohibition of local governments from rescinding development approval because lands continue to be classified as agriculture for tax purposes. The bill also would have prohibited local governments from enforcing wetlands and springs regulations that had been modified since 2003.
SB 1464 passed favorably out of one committee and died in the Senate Community Affairs Committee. HB 703 passed favorably out of two committees before dying in the House State Affairs Committee.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1464, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 703, click here.
Springs Protection: SB 1576 / HB 1313
Despite a cadre of strong Senators pushing for passage, SB 1576 was not approved this Session. Although the original version would have provided approximately $365 million for springs protection activities raised from documentary tax stamp collections, the final version unanimously approved by the Senate provided a one-time only appropriation of $30 million. Further, it would have established a more restrictive standard for protection against over-pumping and would have required planning to upgrade or replace septic tanks.
Before the start of Session, the Senate appeared ready to pass major policy and funding for springs protections, but the House leadership was not as engaged. The issue is expected to be revisited by Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) who has been very involved in water issues, and is slated to lead the House during the next two Sessions.
Once the funding was significantly reduced during the committee process, the bill picked up many opponents including the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Storm Water Association, Home Builders and other business groups. The House companion, HB 1313 by Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford), was never heard in committee.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1576, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 1313, click here.
Renewable Energy / Property Tax Exemption for Commercial Property: HB 825 / HB 827 / SB 916 / SB 922
Bills that would have encouraged businesses to install solar panels by extending a property tax exemption to commercial property for these or other renewable energy products failed to pass this Session.
HB 825 by Rep. Mike La Rosa (R-Saint Cloud) would have placed an amendment on the 2014 ballot to rewrite the Florida Constitution to limit the tax exemption to "end-users" of the electricity. HB 827, by the same sponsor, would have rewritten state law to extend the exemption for renewable energy to commercial property for improvements made after January 1, 2015. Companion measures, SB 916 and SB 922, were filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and passed two of their referenced committees before stalling.
The bills were part of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s legislative agenda for energy. The legislature transferred the State Energy Office to his department in 2011.
In 2008, 61 percent of Florida voters approved a Constitutional Amendment to provide the tax exemption for renewable energy and wind resistance improvements to residential properties. The Legislature, in 2013, passed HB 277 which implemented the amendment but only for renewable energy and not for wind resistance. The bills this year would have extended the renewable energy tax exemption to commercial property in addition to the residential properties exempted last year.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 825, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 827, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 916, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 922, click here.
Fracturing Chemical Usage Disclosure Act: HB 71
HB 71, by Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Fort Meyers), established the Fracturing Chemical Usage Disclosure Act (Act). Under the proposed Act, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) was required to establish an online hydraulic fracturing chemical registry for all wells where hydraulic fracturing is performed. The bill contained reporting and disclosure requirements but neither apparently applied to chemical ingredients. The measure authorized FDEP to adopt rules to administer the Act. HB 71 died after passing its first committee of reference, the Agriculture & Natural Resource Subcommittee.
Hydraulic fracturing is the process of extracting gas or oil from deep underground rock using sand and water treated with chemicals under high pressure. The pressurized mixture reportedly causes the rock to crack. The composition of the hydraulic fracturing fluid varies, but frequently contains mostly water and chemical additives. Currently, there are no applicable federal or state regulations that require disclosure of the chemicals added to the fluid used in hydraulic fracturing.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 71, click here.
Repeal of Renewable Fuel Standard / Memorial to Congress: SM 800 / HM 243
A Senate memorial that would have asked Congress to repeal the federal Renewable Fuel Standard that leads to the blending of ethanol into gasoline died in the Senate Transportation Committee during the third week of Session. The standard was established under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. A memorial has no force of law; it is a mechanism for formally petitioning the U.S. Congress for action on a specific subject.
SM 800, by Sen. Greg Evers (R-Baker), was supported by the Florida Petroleum Council and the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. It was opposed by renewable fuel producers.
The memorial followed the Legislature passing HB 4001 in 2013 repealing a requirement in state law that gasoline contain about 10 percent ethanol. Supporters said ethanol is bad for engines and consumes water and energy through the production of corn. Opponents in 2013 argued that ethanol does not damage car engines and that non-blended gasoline already was available in some stations across the state. They also said the repeal would have little effect because of the federal requirement for production of ethanol.
The bill’s House companion, HM 243 by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar), never received a committee hearing.
To view a copy of FAILED SM 800, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HM 243, click here.
Major PASSED Legislation
No Major Gaming Legislation Passed During the 2014 Legislative Session.
Major FAILED Legislation/Issues Which May Recur in 2015
Comprehensive Gaming Reform: SB 7052 / HB 1383
Both the House and Senate considered significant gaming reform packages which would have brought major changes to the industry.
SB 7052, by Sen. Garrett Richter (R-Naples), the Senate Gaming Committee's gaming reform package, included a 453-page measure that would have renumbered the state's pari-mutuel laws and replaced the state's Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering with the "Department of Gaming Control" overseen by a five-member Gaming Control Board. The members of the panel would be appointed by the Governor and require Senate confirmation. The commission would have broad authority to approve permits and licenses for pari-mutuel wagering, cardrooms, and slot machines and also sign off on relocations or conversions of permits. The commission would also oversee the Department of Gaming Enforcement, which would have the ability to use the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Governor Rick Scott said he did not support a gaming commission but instead was focusing on renewing the compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
The proposal would have allowed one "destination resort casino" each in Broward and Miami-Dade counties that could have offered slots and blackjack along with roulette and craps. Casino operators would have paid $125 million to apply for the licenses, with the money refunded to losing bidders. The casinos would have paid annual $5 million license fees, and games would be taxed at 35 percent, the same rate that "racinos" in Miami-Dade and Broward currently pay on slot machines. Also, the casinos would have had to pledge to spend at least $2 billion to develop each site, not including the purchase of the property, over five years. The Senate bill laid out specific criteria for the board to determine eligibility for the casino licenses.
No significant changes in current pari-mutuel law, except regarding greyhound racing, were included in the Senate’s plan. The measure did not do away with greyhound racing but could pare the number of racing days by setting a full racing schedule at 100 days, instead of the current requirement that tracks run 90 percent of the races held in the previous year. The plan would have required tracks to report greyhound injuries, something advocates had pushed. (For more information regarding the development of the greyhound issue, please see GAMING, Major FAILED Legislation Which May Recur in 2015, Greyhound Racing Injuries: SB 742 / HB 933).
The 411-page House plan, HB 1383, sponsored by House Select Committee on Gaming Chairman Rob Schenck (R-Spring Hill), did not contain any mention of destination resort casinos. The House plan would have done away with pari-mutuel permits that have not been used for the past two years, eliminating 10 dormant permits, according to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation website. Like the Senate measure, the House proposal would have decreased the number of races greyhound tracks are required to run. The House plan would have closed a loophole in state law that allowed regulators to sign off on barrel racing as a pari-mutuel activity.
Sen. Richter explained that because a new agreement between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state has yet to be determined, it would not make sense to go forward with gaming reform until a new compact is ratified.
House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), likewise, insisted that his Chamber would not approve any legislation until the Governor completed negotiations with the Tribe about a portion of a 20-year gambling deal that will expire in mid-2015.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 7052, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 1383, click here.
Voter Control of Gambling Expansion: SB 7050 / HB 7151
Both the Senate and House proposed the creation of a state Constitutional Amendment allowing voters to authorize additional gambling. The House and Senate amendments, however, differed.
The Senate's proposed Constitutional Amendment, SB 7050 by the Senate Committee on Gaming, would have asked voters whether they wanted to alter the Constitution to allow future expansion of gambling, but the Constitutional Amendment would not have applied to any changes approved by the Legislature this year. The Senate gaming proposal would have allowed for one "destination resort casino" each in Broward and Miami-Dade counties that could have offered slots and blackjack along with roulette and craps. Casino operators would have paid $125 million to apply for the licenses, with the money refunded to losing bidders. The casinos also would have paid annual $5 million license fees and games would be taxed at 35 percent, the same rate that "racinos" in Miami-Dade and Broward currently pay on slot machines. The casinos would have had to pledge to spend at least $2 billion to develop each site, not including the purchase of the property, over five years. The Senate bill laid out specific criteria for the board to determine eligibility for the casino licenses.
The House proposed Constitutional Amendment, HB 7151 by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar), would have required that any expansion of gambling be authorized by Constitutional Amendment approved by Florida voters before being enacted.
The Senate’s bill was workshopped by the Committee on Gaming, while the House’s bill never received a hearing.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 7050, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 7151, click here.
Greyhound Racing Injuries: SB 742 / HB 933
SB 742, by Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood), required greyhound track veterinarians to prepare detailed reports of all injuries to racing greyhounds that occur while the dogs are on a racetrack or in another location. The proposed legislation modified requirements regarding prohibited medication or drugging of racing animals (horses and greyhounds). The fine for violations could have been up to $10,000 or the race winnings (purse amount), whichever was greater.
The Senate bill was reported favorably by the Committee on Gaming and was approved unanimously on the Senate Floor.
The House proposal, HB 933 by Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Coral Springs), never received a committee hearing. Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) indicated the bill would not likely be heard in the House, citing the reality that overall gaming reform would not be passed during the 2014 Legislative Session.
Sen. Sobel cited the deaths of 74 dogs at tracks in the past seven months and added that a dog dies roughly every three days in Florida, one of only two states not now requiring reports to state regulators.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 742, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 933, click here.
Amusement Machines: SB 668 / HB 945
The Senate Gaming Committee unanimously approved SB 668 by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland). This Senate proposal allowed machines like the "claw machine," in which players insert money to maneuver the claw to grab an object inside a box, to operate by taking paper money, coupons or tokens. The legislation was meant to apply to only those machines where the skill of the player determines the outcome. Those machines are currently restricted to taking only coins. This legislation came one year after lawmakers passed legislation to ban all internet sweepstakes cafes, which would have been considered a tweak to the law to allow similar "amusement machines" to operate more freely.
The bill also expanded the value of an award that can be retrieved through the machines from 75 cents to $5.25 for single plays at a time. Merchandise won through the games, however, could have been valued at up to $50. Another provision of the bill allowed the amusement machines to be located in bowling centers, hotels and restaurants, in addition to arcades and truck stops.
Despite its passage from the Gaming Committee, the proposal never received another hearing. The House measure, HB 945 by Rep. Ben Albritton (R-Bartow), was never taken up.
Supporters of the legislation’s concept, including business owners who offer "claw" machines or "amusement machines," said it was needed to clarify the law and allow them to operate without fear of being shut down by authorities.
Last year, the Legislature passed a law that banned sweepstakes cafes, which had operated under a loophole allowing businesses to offer "sweepstakes" as a game promotion to sell another product. Operators of the cafes said they used the slot machine video games as a promotion to sell telephone or Internet time. Operators of adult arcades and businesses using arcade games worried at the time that the new ban would impact their businesses. The goal of this year’s bill was to fix issues with current businesses that were affected by the ban on internet cafes.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 668, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 945, click here.
Major PASSED Legislation
Flood Insurance: SB 542
SB 542, by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), passed the Legislature during the last week of the 2014 Session. This legislation gives insurers more options for providing flood insurance coverage to Floridians. The measure is a result of the 2012 passage of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act by Congress. The act put an end to the practice of subsidizing rates for homes in flood prone areas used by the National Flood Insurance Program. As a result, Floridians saw significant increases in their flood insurance premiums beginning in late 2013. In response to these increases, SB 542 allows authorized insurers to sell four different types of flood insurance products:
- Standard coverage, which covers only losses from the peril of flood as defined in the bill, which is the definition used by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The policy must be the same as coverage offered from the NFIP regarding the definition of flood, coverage, deductibles, and loss adjustment.
- Preferred coverage, which includes the same coverage as standard flood insurance and also must cover flood losses caused by water intrusion from outside the structure that are not otherwise covered under the definition of flood in the bill.
- Customized coverage, which is coverage that is broader than standard flood coverage.
- Supplemental coverage, which supplements an NFIP flood policy or a standard or preferred policy from a private market insurer. Supplemental coverage may provide coverage for jewelry, art, deductibles, and additional living expenses. It does not include excess flood coverage over other flood policies.
A prominent notice must be put on the policy declarations or face page regarding the deductibles and any other limitations on flood coverage or policy limits. The bill also provides for the following:
- Allows rates filed before October 1, 2019, to be established through a rate filing with the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) that are not required to be reviewed by the OIR before implementation (i.e., file and use review) or shortly after implementation of the rate (i.e., use and file review).
- Exempts insurers from the OIR authority to require the insurer to provide information necessary to evaluate the company and the reasonableness of the rate. However, the OIR would be able to examine a rate filing at its discretion, and the insurer must maintain actuarial data related to flood coverage for 2 years after the effective date of the rate change.
- Requires the OIR to use actuarial techniques and the standards of the rating law to determine during an examination if the rate is excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory.
- Allows projected flood rate losses for personal residential property insurance to be used as a rating factor. Flood losses may be estimated using a model or straight average of models found reliable by the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology.
- Allows surplus lines agents to export flood insurance without making a diligent effort to seek coverage from three or more authorized insurers. This provision would expire on July 1, 2017.
- Requires insurers that write flood coverage to notify the OIR at least 30 days before doing so and file a plan of operation, financial projections, and any such revisions with the OIR.
- Prohibits the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation from providing flood insurance and prohibits the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund from reimbursing flood losses.
- Requires insurance agents that receive a flood insurance application to obtain a signed acknowledgement from the applicant stating that the full risk rate for flood insurance may apply to the property if flood insurance is later obtained under the NFIP.
- Specifies that the OIR Commissioner may provide a certification required by federal law or rule as a condition of qualifying for private flood insurance or disaster assistance.
The bill’s sponsor yielded to the House version of the legislation, which requires companies to cover the full replacement value of the home. His original bill allowed companies to offer flood coverage only up to the outstanding amount of the mortgage. A companion measure, HB 879, was filed by Rep. Ed Hooper (R-Clearwater). If approved by the Governor, SB 542 will take effect upon becoming law.
To view a copy of PASSED SB 542, click here.
Insurer Solvency: SB 1308
SB 1308, by Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs), passed this Session and is aimed at modernizing insurer solvency regulation in Florida. The bill makes fundamental changes in the way insurance companies and their affiliates are supervised by state regulators. It also adopts a principle-based approach to establishing insurer reserves for term life and certain universal life insurance products. The measure was a priority of Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). A companion bill, HB 1271, was filed by Rep. Clay Ingram (R-Pensacola).
The solvency changes largely adhere to national standards developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Specifically, the revisions call for enterprise risk reporting at the holding company level, enhanced regulator access to data and information from non-insurance operations, clear authority to participate in supervisory colleges, and enhanced information sharing between regulators.
According to OIR, the bill also establishes an approach to looking at a life insurance company’s reserves that are designed to ensure that appropriate reserve levels are established for various life products.
Florida will become the 14th state to adopt the new principle-based reserving standard, which takes effect in 2017, upon the approval of 42 states adopting the same measure. So far, six state legislatures are considering the measure, which became available last year for adoption. It is expected to be expanded to health insurance and eventually other insurance lines.
To view a copy of PASSED SB 1308, click here.
Workers’ Compensation / Retrospective Rating Plans: HB 785
HB 785, by Rep. Ben Albritton (R-Bartow), passed both the House and Senate in late Session and headed to the Governor. The bill permits a retrospective rating plan to contain a provision for negotiation of a workers’ compensation premium between an employer and insurer if the employer has:
- Exposure in more than one state;
- An estimated annual standard workers’ compensation premium in Florida of $175,000 or more; and
- An estimated annual countrywide standard workers’ compensation premium of $1 million or more.
It also exempts these retrospective rating plans from s. 627.072(1), F.S., which specifies factors to be used in determining workers’ compensation rates. And, it requires such plans and associated forms to be filed by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) and to be approved by the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). However, an individual employer’s premium negotiated under an approved retrospective rating plan does not have to be filed with the OIR.
A companion measure, SB 952, was filed by Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-New Port Richey). If HB 785 is approved by the Governor, it will take effect on July 1, 2014.
To view a copy of PASSED HB 785, click here.
Citizens Property Insurance Corporation: SB 1672
Legislation designed to further reduce policies in state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corporation was passed through the Senate in the final days of Session, though it was stripped of its most controversial provisions earlier the same week by the House. The House objected to language allowing surplus lines companies to participate in the Citizens’ clearinghouse program, and language that would have shifted five percent of the 15 percent assessment amount in the wake of a catastrophic storm from coastal account policies to personal lines policies.
SB 1672 by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, which was chaired by Sen. David Simmons (R- Altamonte Springs), is aimed at reducing Citizens’ exposure in order to decrease the risk of assessments on Citizens and non-Citizens policies after cataclysmic hurricanes. Other provisions in the bill limit the ability of public adjusters to receive referral fees or to accept power of attorney from policyholders. The legislation further prohibits Citizens from issuing new multi-peril coverage policies to condominium buildings and calls for all Citizens bid disputes to be handled in administrative court, rather than by its board.
The companion measure, HB 1109 by Rep. John Wood (R-Winter Haven), received favorable votes in its committees of reference and received a passing vote in the House. If the measure is signed into law by the Governor, the bill would take effect on July 1, 2014.
To view a copy of PASSED SB 1672, click here.
Insurance Discrimination Against Gun Owners: SB 424
This year, the House and Senate approved a measure along party lines aimed at preventing insurance companies from discriminating against gun owners. SB 424, filed by Sen. Tom Lee (R-Brandon), heightens the potential legal consequences against insurers by adding a prohibition to part of the state law that deals with unfair or deceptive practices. Companion legislation, HB 255, was filed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar). Supporters pointed to Second Amendment rights while opponents questioned the need for the bill, saying there is little evidence that insurers take into account gun ownership.
SB 424 provides that it is an unfair discriminatory practice for a personal lines property or automobile insurer to:
- Refuse to issue, renew, or cancel a policy or charge an unfairly discriminatory rate based on the lawful ownership, possession, or use of a firearm or ammunition by the applicant, insured, or a household member of the applicant or insured.
- Disclose the lawful ownership or possession of firearms of an applicant, insured, or household member of the applicant or insured to a third party or an affiliated entity of the insurer unless the insurer discloses to the applicant the need for the disclosure, and the applicant or insured expressly consents or "opts in" to the disclosure.
The bill also provides limited exceptions to the general provision of the bill regarding sharing firearm-related information.
Under the measure, the insurer is not prohibited from charging a supplemental premium when a separate rider is voluntarily requested by a policyholder or prospective policyholder to insure a firearm or firearm collection (if the value of the collection exceeds standard policy coverage) so long as it is not unfairly discriminatory. Also, if an insurer engages in discriminatory practices prohibited under Part IX, of Chapter 626, Florida Statutes, the insurer will be subject to fines and other administrative actions by the Office of Insurance Regulation.
To view a copy PASSED SB 424, click here.
Major FAILED Legislation/Issues Which May Recur in 2015
Third-Party Bad Faith Claims: SB 1494 / HB 187
Efforts failed for the second year in a row to pass legislation that would limit third-party bad faith claims. SB 1494 by Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine) and HB 187 by Rep. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) would have provided a 45-day window in which an insurer could act to avoid liability for failing to attempt to settle a claim in good faith. The bills would have also provided that before a third-party bad faith action for failure to settle a liability insurance claim could be filed, the claimant must provide the insurer a written notice of loss.
An insurer would not have violated the duty to attempt to settle a claim in good faith if the insurer complied with a request for a disclosure statement and, within 45 days after receipt of the written notice of loss, offered to pay the claimant the lesser of the amount that the claimant was willing to accept. This would be in exchange for the insured being fully released from any liability arising from the incident or the limits of liability coverage applicable to the claimant’s insurance claim.
The House and Senate bills were approved in one committee each, but neither advanced further.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1494, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 187, click here.
Personal Injury Protection Insurance (PIP): Issue Not Addressed But May Recur
A report was issued at mid-Session by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) which attributed the 2012 PIP reform law to the lower number of questionable PIP claims from auto accidents. As such, there was no appetite by the Legislature to address the issue in 2014.
In 2012, the Legislature approved HB 119, a priority of Governor Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater which prohibits acupuncturists and massage therapists from receiving PIP claims and imposes restrictions on chiropractors. The new law requires crash victims to seek treatment within 14 days, and non-emergency medical care conditions are capped at $2,500. It also beefs up fraud prevention measures.
The NICB report stated that questionable PIP claims – which are referred for exaggerated injuries, overbilling, billing for treatments not given, and other reasons – fell last year after rising by 22 percent in 2011 and 2012.
CFO Atwater and lawmakers pushed for insurance companies to lower their premiums, but insurers warned that the projected 25 percent PIP rate decrease might not be realized if the law was struck down in the courts. After a lower court issued an injunction against the law in March 2013, the industry and lawmakers briefly looked at scrapping the no-fault PIP system for a mandatory bodily injury system in which only the party at-fault in an accident would be responsible for claims.
In October, an appellate court ruling striking the injunction gave insurers relief, and many filed reductions for the PIP portion of their rates.
One issue that has surfaced which could be addressed next Session is an unintended loophole in the provision that distinguishes between emergency and a non-emergency medical condition. The 2012 law requires an insurer to provide PIP benefits up to $10,000 if a medical provider has determined the injured person had an emergency medical condition. Further, the benefit limits are $2,500 if a medical provider determines the person did not have an emergency medical condition. This language left a loophole which has resulted in increased litigation on PIP claims. Trial attorneys have interpreted the law to say that if no determination is made by a medical provider, the benefit level is $10,000. The clear intent of the Legislature was to limit to $2,500 the benefits for those persons who did not experience an emergency medical condition.
Florida Hurricane Catastrophe (CAT) Fund / Reduction in Coverage: Original Version of SB 482
Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) has consistently sponsored bills in recent years to reduce the total coverage of the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe (CAT) Fund. However, during the fourth week of Session, he conceded defeat on this year's version but said he will be filing the bill again in coming years. The measure’s original reduction language was removed from the bill during the committee process.
SB 482 reduced the total coverage of the CAT Fund from $17 billion to $14 billion over three years.
Smaller insurance companies based in Florida and consumer advocates have balked at Sen. Hays’ approach to the CAT Fund, saying the reduction in its coverage would force insurers to buy more expensive reinsurance in the private market, driving up rates for homeowners.
Reinsurers and larger insurance companies pushed heavily for the CAT Fund reduction in recent years, especially when estimates showed a potential shortfall. Reportedly, the fund would not have been able to borrow enough money to pay the full $17 billion in potential claims in 2011 and 2012, but this year estimates show a rebound in the bond markets along with the buildup of the CAT Fund’s reserves after eight straight years without a hurricane hitting the state.
Reinsurance companies have been touting a significant drop in prices in the last year, but even the potential for a marginal increase in homeowner insurance rates was enough for lawmakers to hesitate about Sen. Hays’ bill this year.
To view a copy of the original version of SB 482 which FAILED, click here.
Workers’ Compensation / Preexisting Conditions: SB 1214 / HB 1007
SB 1214 by Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) proposed tightening requirements for injured employees in workers’ compensation insurance cases. The bill and its companion, HB 1007 by Rep. David Hood (R-Daytona Beach), failed to pass during the 2014 Session. SB 1214 did not receive a committee hearing; HB 1007 stalled in the House Insurance & Banking Committee, its first committee of reference.
The bills dealt with issues such as the award of permanent total disability benefits and how preexisting conditions are factored into determining the causes of workplace injuries. They also made changes to the laws regarding drug testing after workers are injured. Under the part of the law dealing with employers who take part in the drug-free workplace program, the bill stated that workers would be required to submit to drug testing after receiving initial treatment for injuries and, if they refused, "it shall be presumed, in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, that the injury was occasioned primarily by the influence of drugs".
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1214, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 1007, click here.
Workers’ Compensation Cost Task Force: SB 1580
SB 1580, by Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla), would have created the Workers’ Compensation Cost Task Force. Primarily, the task force’s key function would have been analyzing workers’ compensation costs. The bill would have specifically required the task force to develop a report that included its findings and legislative recommendations regarding a new payment scheme for hospital inpatient and outpatient reimbursements in workers’ compensation cases.
Additionally, the task force would have addressed other factors related to workers’ compensation costs, including: volume of inpatient and outpatient services, number of accidents and workers’ compensation claims, fraud, cost per claim and treatment, and tort costs related to workers’ compensation care. The task force would have been required to submit their findings in a report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by January 15, 2015.
The bill received hearings in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and the Senate Health Policy Committee, but failed final passage.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1580, click here.
Legal / Justice
Major PASSED Legislation
Nursing Home Litigation: SB 670
Legislation that would shield passive investors in a nursing home from being sued for negligence or a violation of a nursing home resident’s rights was approved by the Legislature. The bill made clear that only the nursing home licensee and its management or consulting company, managing employees, and direct caregivers, whether employees or contracted, could be sued. SB 670 by Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine) provides for the following:
- Requires the court to hold a hearing on a motion for leave to amend the initial pleading before other parties may be sued;
- Makes these provisions of law the exclusive remedy against a nursing home licensee, its management or consulting company, managing employees, and direct caregivers for a cause of action alleging direct or vicarious liability for the recovery of damages for the personal injury or death of a nursing home resident arising out of negligence or a violation of a resident’s statutory rights;
- Specifies when the claimant must elect either survival damages or wrongful death damages, which is after the verdict but before the judgment is entered;
- Requires the court to hold an evidentiary hearing before allowing a claim for punitive damages to proceed; and
- Requires payment of a judgment within 60 days, unless agreed otherwise, or the nursing home is subject to licensure sanction by the Agency for Health Care Administration.
A companion measure, HB 569, was filed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar).
To view a copy of PASSED SB 670, click here.
Inmate Re-entry: HB 53
As part of a multiyear effort to reduce recidivism by providing more effective inmate re-entry and reintegration services, the Legislature passed HB 53, by Rep. Charlie Stone (R-Ocala), to assist inmates leaving prison with returning to society and finding employment. Currently, many inmates released from prison do not have state-issued identification cards, which makes it more difficult to find employment and access other services.
The legislation waives the $9 fee the Department of Health charges for a copy of a birth certificate and the $25 fee the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles charges to issue or renew a state ID. For non-Florida born inmates, the bill requires the Department of Corrections to assist inmates in completing the necessary forms to obtain a Social Security card or state-issued identification card. The bill also directs the Department of Corrections to expand its faith and character-based institutions to serve both male and female inmates. It further requires that peer to peer programs be offered at faith and character based institutions. A companion measure, SB 274, was filed by Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs).
To view a copy of PASSED HB 53, click here.
Major FAILED Legislation/Issues Which May Recur in 2015
Alternative Medical Malpractice Process: HB 739 / SB 1362
Just days after a major Florida Supreme Court decision rejecting a damage cap in medical malpractice cases, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony about a proposal that would have dramatically revamped the malpractice legal system.
HB 739, by Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford), proposed an administrative process for medical malpractice claims, aimed at cutting down on lengthy lawsuits. The bill was discussed by the House Judiciary Committee in mid-March with members of the medical community speaking against it. The sponsor said that an overhaul of the malpractice system would lead to lower medical costs for Florida businesses.
The bill, creating the Patient Compensation System Act (PCS), required those injured by a medical procedure to file a claim for benefits which would be reviewed by an independent board. Results from the board would determine if a patient was due compensation and any appeals would be heard by an administrative judge. The process was meant to be an administrative option outside of the current process of litigating medical malpractice claims in the court system. Participation by a physician would have been voluntary, and participating physicians would have paid an annual amount to participate in the PCS.
The proposal was backed by a group called Patients for Fair Compensation. Opposing the measure were the Florida Medical Association, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Insurance Council, the Florida Justice Reform Institute, and the Florida Justice Association.
There was no vote taken during the meeting, and a further hearing was not scheduled. A similar measure, SB 1362, was filed by Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring), but it also failed to be heard in committee.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 739, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1362, click here.
Various Bills of Interest
Major PASSED Legislation
Low-THC Cannabis: SB 1030
The Senate voted 30-9 for SB 1030 by Sens. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), and Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville), which will allow doctors to prescribe a specially-grown marijuana extract for treatment of severe seizures. The House approved the measure 111-7.
Sponsors of the proposal worked with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) and Rep. Katie Edwards (D-Plantation), sponsors of HB 843, to rally widespread bipartisan support for the use of a "non-euphoric" marijuana extract that has proven effective for children with intractable epileptic seizures, even dramatically decreasing potentially fatal seizures in children who suffer from a rare form of epilepsy that can cause hundreds of seizures a week.
The blend, known as "Charlotte's Web" for a Colorado girl who has benefited from it, is low in tetrhydrocannabinol (THC), the element that gets smokers high, and high in cannabidiol (CBD), the extract that has shown effectiveness in preventing seizures.
Charlotte's Web is administered as an oil drop under the tongue or as a vapor. It is not smoked and some parents and growers from Colorado, where marijuana is legal, said a user could not get high by using the new strain in any amount because of its low THC content.
The bill’s passage came after Senators rejected efforts to weaken requirements added by the House in the final days of Session. The House limited eligible growers to large commercial nurseries that have been in business in Florida for at least 30 years. The measure also requires five distribution centers --- one each in the northwest, northeast, central, southeast and southwest parts of the state.
Under the proposal, growers --- who will also manufacture the substance and distribute it to users --- must be registered with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the cultivation of more than 400,000 plants and post a $5 million bond. According to the Department, 21 nurseries in Florida would meet the requirements outlined in the bill.
Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah), who argued that the measure would shut out small agricultural businesses, tried but failed to eliminate the requirement that growers be nurseries and to reduce the length of time businesses had to operate in Florida from 30 to 10 years. He added that, as written, the legislation would exclude some Miami-area nurseries that were wiped out by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Sen. Bradley warned, however, that reducing the requirement to 10 years would cause the bill to go back to the House -- making it hard to pass in the frantic final 12 hours of the Session.
The House also amended the bill to let doctors use the extract for cancer treatment, as well as effects of Lou Gehrig's Disease. Under the measure, cancer patients, as well as those who suffer from severe muscle spasms or seizures and who do not respond to other treatments, would be eligible for placement on a "compassionate use" registry maintained by the Department of Health. Doctors, who would have to receive special training, would also have to submit patients' treatment plans to the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. Patients could be charged with misdemeanors for faking a disease, and doctors could be charged with misdemeanors for ordering the drug for patients who do not fit the criteria.
Governor Rick Scott told reporters he will sign the bill.
Some Republican lawmakers had been leery of backing the bill because they feared it would signal support for a Constitutional Amendment on the November ballot that would allow doctors to order traditional marijuana for critically-ill patients. The Constitutional Amendment on the November ballot, Amendment 2, would allow doctors to prescribe smoking marijuana, or other forms, for treatment of a wide range of afflictions. If approved by 60 percent of the voters, that amendment will require implementing legislation in the 2015 Legislative Session.
To view a copy of PASSED SB 1030, click here.
State Information Technology Governance: HB 7073*
The Florida Senate passed House Bill 7073 by Rep. Seth McKeel (R-Lakeland) relating to Information Technology Governance during the final hours of the 2014 Legislative Session.
A component of the joint House and Senate Work Plan 2014 agenda championed by Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), the legislation develops an information technology strategy for state government.
HB 7073 creates the Agency for State Technology, as an executive agency administratively housed within the Department of Management Services (DMS). The legislation also creates a Chief Information Officer (CIO), appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, to provide leadership in the areas of enterprise-wide technology solutions, strategic planning, information technology policy, security, technology procurements, and the operation and maintenance of centralized equipment.
Beginning January 1, 2015, the Agency for State Technology will perform project oversight services for any state agency project with a total cost of $10 million or more, and any projects that affect multiple agencies and have a total cost of $25 million or more and are initiated by Cabinet agencies. The legislation further directs the Agency for State Technology to provide best practices for Information Technology procurement and review all Information Technology purchases with a total cost of $250,000 or more.
Professional Sports Facilities: HB 7095
The House and Senate proposed policies to grant additional funding for professional sports facilities after an unsuccessful attempt last Session by the Miami Dolphins to receive tax revenue for upgrades at Sun Life Stadium. HB 7095, by Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City), passed the House with an 89-27 vote on the final day of Session after passing the Senate 35-3. A similar measure, SB 1216, was filed by Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater). Early on, House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) openly opposed the state setting aside money for professional sports stadium projects this Session and favored a process that treated all interests equitably.
The House measure creates the Professional Sports Facility Incentive Process to provide state funding for construction, reconstruction, renovations, or improvements to professional sports facilities. The program, administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity, establishes application guidelines including a ranking system and repayment provisions for the owners of stadiums asking the state to help fund construction or facility upgrades. In addition to professional sports teams, rodeos, minor league baseball, Breeders’ Cup horseracing venues, and semi-professional soccer teams will be eligible to compete for $13 million annually in tax revenues.
Projects valued at less than $100 million would be eligible for $1 million in annual sales tax rebates and larger ones could receive $2 to $3 million a year. Existing projects such as new Major League Soccer stadiums proposed in Orlando and Miami and the ongoing Daytona Rising renovation project at Daytona International Speedway will be eligible to apply for funding under the new process. Members of the Legislative Budget Commission will have the authority to approve up to $6 million for current projects for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
The bill will take effect on July 1, 2014, if approved by the Governor.
To view a copy of PASSED HB 7095, click here.
Charities: HB 629
The Legislature passed sweeping reforms to charities and charitable solicitors this year following a series of articles published by the Tampa Bay Times. This was a top priority for the State Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Adam Putnam.
The bill, HB 629 by Rep. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton), provides for revocation of the tax-exempt certificate for charities who are disqualified for not complying with statutory requirements, clarifies requirements relating to financial statements, requires charities to adopt conflict of interest policies, requires supplemental financial disclosures for certain charities, requires licensure for charitable solicitors who obtain personal financial information, and requires solicitors to provide the Department with additional information, including a copy of any script, presentation, or sales literature. The legislation also prohibits a solicitor from submitting false or misleading information in connection with a sales promotion and increases the fine for violations for charities and charitable solicitors. The bill also contains exemptions for religious institutions. A similar measure, SB 638, was filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg).
If signed by the Governor, the bill will take effect on July 1, 2014.
To view a copy of PASSED HB 629, click here.
Florida GI Bill: HB 7015*
During the second week of Session, the Legislature passed the Florida GI Bill, HB 7015, which is aimed at establishing Florida as the top "Welcome Home" state for the military, veterans, and their families. The state has more than 1.5 million veterans, 61,000 active military personnel, and nearly 12,000 Florida National Guard members.
The bill was a joint priority of Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) and was quickly approved by Governor Rick Scott.
The measure provides university tuition waivers for veterans, pays for military and National Guard base improvements, and allocates $1 million a year to "sell" the state to veterans.
The package, expected to cost more than $30 million in its first year, is envisioned as a Florida version of the World War II-era GI Bill crafted to help veterans assimilate into civilian life. The costs include an anticipated $12.5 million for ongoing upgrades of the state's National Guard facilities and $7.5 million to purchase a total of 45 acres of buffer lands around MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, and Naval Support Activity Panama City.
Meanwhile, state universities and colleges are expected to take an $11.7 million cut in waivers for out-of-state tuition charges for all honorably discharged veterans, named the Congressman C.W. Bill Young Veteran Tuition Waiver Act, after the late Pinellas County lawmaker who served more than four decades in Congress and who died last year. Since in-state tuition, covered by the federal GI Bill, is thousands of dollars cheaper than out-of-state rates, lawmakers hope the new waivers encourage veterans from outside of the state to apply to Florida schools.
The GI Bill increases funding for the Educational Dollars for Duty (EDD) program to cover career certification and continuing education for maintaining licensure and encourages military base commanders and the Commissioner of Education to work together to increase military family student achievement. Specifically, $1.53 million in recurring funding is allocated towards the EDD program to expand education options for National Guard members to include industry certifications and continuing education to maintain license certifications.
The proposal also requires VISIT FLORIDA to spend $1 million a year on marketing aimed at veterans and allocates another $300,000 to a new nonprofit corporation, Florida Is For Veterans, Inc.. The nonprofit, to be housed within the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, will be used to encourage veterans to move to Florida and promote their hiring.
The Florida GI Bill also expands state and local government hiring preference to veterans, members of the reserves, and the Florida National Guard; exempts active duty service members' spouses and dependents from having to obtain a Florida driver's license if they work or are enrolled in a public school; and removes a one-year residency requirement for veterans for admission to state nursing homes.
The bill was approved by the Governor on March 31, and the majority of the bill's provisions take effect on July 1, 2014. (See bill details for other effective dates.)
To view a copy of PASSED HB 7015, click here.
State Contracting / Prior Relevant Experience: HB 953
HB 953, by Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), requires state agencies to consider the prior relevant experience of a vendor when evaluating the responses to a request for proposal or invitation to negotiate. Currently, agencies may consider such prior relevant experience, but agencies are not required to do so. A companion measure was filed by Rep. Kathleen Peters (R-St. Petersburg).
Current law requires agencies to utilize a competitive solicitation process for contracts for commodities or services in excess of $35,000. Depending on the cost and characteristics of the needed goods or services, agencies may utilize a variety of procurement methods, which may include a request for proposal or invitation to negotiate. The agency must consider certain criteria when evaluating the proposal or reply before selecting a vendor.
If approved by the Governor, HB 953 will take effect on July 1, 2014.
To view a copy of PASSED HB 953, click here.
Major FAILED Legislation/Issues Which May Recur in 2015
State Pension Reform: SB 1114* / HB 7181*
Reforming the Florida Retirement System (FRS) was one of the joint priorities included in the "2014 Work Plan Florida" agenda put forth by Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) – although it was primarily pushed by the Speaker.
SB 1114, by Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), reduced the payroll deduction for employees who chose the 401(k)-style investment plan from three percent to two percent. Like the House bill, HB 7181 by Rep. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton), the Senate bill also directed Senior Management and elected officers (who would have taken office after July 1, 2015) into the investment plan. Vesting for that system would have increased from eight years to ten, and the default position for those who made no choice when hired would have changed from the FRS to the investment plan. Currently, those making no choice default into the pension plan. Under the Senate and House measures, new employees would have defaulted into the investment plan but would have been given nine months to change their minds and enroll in the traditional pension plan.
During the Session, HB 7181 came forth as the result of merging the House FRS bill and another bill that would have changed the way local governments could allocate increased revenue from insurance taxes, which fund pension improvements for police and firefighters.
Opponents of the bills felt that steering more employees to the investment plan would leave a steadily diminishing number in the FRS, to fund benefits for current and future retirees. Also, employees going into the investment plan would have their retirement at the mercy of a changing market. Those in support of the reforms said that about 60 percent of public employees leave government before getting vested, and have nothing to show for their time. Since the investment plan vests in one year, young workers who do not plan to make a career in public service would have funds to take with them should they choose to leave the public sector.
HB 7181 passed the House during the final days of Session. However, after a lengthy debate, the Senate voted 21-15 not to take up the provisions of HB 7181, thus rendering the pension issue dead for the year.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 1114, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 7181, click here.
Government Contracting / Local Preference Ordinances: SB 612 / HB 801
SB 612, by Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla), provided that state law preempted and superseded local ordinances and regulations that gave preference to local contractors if a competitive solicitation for personal property used state funds to pay for 51 percent or more of the total cost. The bill was amended in the House Judiciary Committee to up the percentage from 20 to 51 percent.
Current law requires agencies and political subdivisions of the state, except for counties and municipalities in purchasing personal property through competitive solicitation, to give a preference to a vendor whose principal place of business is in Florida. The bill removed counties and municipalities from the exemption on preference requirements, so that counties and municipalities would comply with legislative preference requirements.
The measure required a political subdivision of the state to disclose in the solicitation document of a competitive solicitation whether payment would come from funds appropriated by the state and the amount or percentage relative to the total cost of the personal property or construction services, if known.
Additionally, SB 612 required the Department of Management Services to maintain a vendor complaint list, a suspended vendor list, and a terminated vendor list, which would be comprised of vendors identified by state agencies and participating local governments. Agencies would have considered the fact of a vendor’s status on any of the lists in evaluating competitive solicitations.
Within 30 days after an agency contracted with a vendor, the bill required an agency to update the Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System website indicating whether the contract was issued to a vendor on one of the lists.
SB 612 died in the Senate Appropriations Committee after three favorable committee hearings. A comparable bill, HB 801 by Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-Fort Myers), died in the Local and Federal Affairs Committee.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 612, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 801, click here.
Social Media Privacy: SB 198 / HB 527
SB 198, by Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth), prohibited most employers from asking a worker or job applicant for his or her username, password or other means to access private social-media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter. A companion bill, HB 527, was filed by Rep. Karen Castor Dentel (D-Maitland). SB 198 died in the Senate Judiciary Committee after having favorably passed two previous committees. HB 527 never received a committee hearing.
The measure did not prevent an employer from accessing and viewing publicly available information on an employee’s social media account. The bill did, however, include a provision that would allow a worker to sue an employer that violated the proposed law. During the committee process, the legislation was amended to exempt business-related accounts from the restrictions.
Since 2012, several states have introduced legislation or enacted laws that limit an employer’s or prospective employer’s ability to require access to the social media accounts of its employees or applicants.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 198, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 527, click here.
Red Light Cameras: HB 4009 / SB 144 / HB 7005 (Original Provisions)
Even though the House Speaker and Senate President indicated their support for complete repeal, a move to overhaul the state’s red light camera law failed to pass this year. Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), Chairman of the Transportation Committee, filed the repealer bill, SB 144, while Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami) sponsored the House companion, HB 4009.
The onus for the calls to repeal were the result of an Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability study which showed that the cameras have not reduced accidents, and the fines cost motorists nearly $119 million last year. Currently, the total amount of a ticket issued by a red light camera is $158, with $83 going to the state and $75 to the local government. Almost 77 county and city governments currently operate red-light camera programs.
A move to further regulate the use of cameras and to revise the distribution of revenue from the cameras gained more traction. A House transportation package, HB 7005, also by Rep. Artiles, went through several modifications including banning new red-light cameras; eliminating/reducing the money that local governments could collect; prohibiting local governments from using revenues from tickets for anything not related to traffic safety; allowing for new cameras only if their use was justified by traffic engineering studies; and requiring jurisdictions to shut off the cameras if they failed to provide annual camera-enforcement reports to the state.
SB 144 was also modified to prohibit issuing tickets if a camera was not in compliance with state regulations such as signal timing and the safety need of the camera was not documented by an engineer. A restriction on how local governments could use the revenue from tickets was also added. However, an attempt to forbid tickets for rolling right turns on red lights and an attempt to add a half-second "grace time" for drivers failed.
To view of a copy of FAILED HB 4009, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 144, click here.
To view a copy of the original provisions of HB 7005, which FAILED, click here.
Regulation of Fireworks: HB 4005 / SB 314
Legislation failed during the 2014 Session that would have legalized the sale of all fireworks in the state.
HB 4005, by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Shalimar), stalled in the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee and was never readdressed. Its companion, SB 314 by Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), died in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee after having passed the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.
The bill was supported by the Florida League of Cities but opposed by the Florida Fire Chiefs Association. Rep. Gaetz decided to allow the stakeholders to attempt to work out a feasible solution and not pursue the issue further during this Session.
HB 4005 allowed the sale of all fireworks not otherwise prohibited by federal law, affording counties and cities the ability to set regulations as opposed to the state. Federal law prohibits the sale of the "most dangerous" fireworks, creating a national firework baseline that state governments may raise but may not lower.
Specifically, the bill:
- Eliminated provisions limiting or restricting the sale of fireworks in Florida;
- Eliminated the statutory authority provided to the State Fire Marshal to register sparkler manufactures, retailers, distributers, and wholesalers;
- Eliminated the state requirement for public firework displays to have bonds;
- Eliminated the state law which prohibits the tampering of fireworks;
- Eliminated the role of the State Fire Marshal in testing and approving of fireworks; and
- Eliminated the registering requirements for retailers.
Current law restricts the sale of fireworks to those that the State Fire Marshal has approved as "sparklers" or those considered "novelties and trick noisemakers". Generally, anything that explodes or launches into the air is illegal. An exception exists for agricultural uses. Florida residents only need to sign a waiver for the exception to have it apply.
To view a copy of FAILED HB 4005, click here.
To view a copy of FAILED SB 314, click here.