Lawmakers worked through the weekend to finish their annual Legislative Session today, adjourning at 4:16 p.m., two days after Friday's scheduled ending. While “sine die” came late, it appears that most sticking points that caused delays are settled, and a landmark budget, along with several key pieces of legislation, were passed and are set for consideration by Gov. Rick Scott. Legislative leaders negotiated budget issues throughout last weekend and into the first half of this past week. Leadership delivered an $89 billion state budget -- up $6 billion from last year -- to all members on Thursday afternoon and debated its merits on Friday. This began the constitutionally mandated 72-hour “cooling off’ period ending with today's final vote. Budget highlights include $53 million to combat the opioid crisis, significant increases in higher-education funding, and new money for criminal justice and environmental programs.
In addition to completing a final spending plan, lawmakers held floor sessions each day this week to move bills. This week saw the passage of, or set up votes for, several high profile proposals:
- A $168.6 million tax package (HB 7087) was approved on Sunday during the extended session. The overall cost is about $150 million and includes tax-free holidays and cuts to help the agriculture industry after Hurricane Irma.
Also included in the tax package is a broad expansion in the eligible expenditures of the tourist development tax. This new statutory language will allow local governments, upon 2/3 vote recommendation from the County Tourist Development Council and a 2/3 vote of the County Commission, to utilize tourist development tax revenue for traditional infrastructure projects, so long as those investments are tied to increasing tourism. However, this expansion is only available to counties already spending at least 40% of their existing tourist development tax revenue on tourism marketing. Also included is a cut to the business rent tax from 5.8% to 5.7%. This marks the second year in a row that the Legislature has cut this tax, which only exists in Florida.
- Legislation (SB 376) that would extend workers’ compensation benefits to first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder passed both chambers and is excpected to be approved by Scott.
- The Senate passed a two-thirds ‘supermajority’ requirement (HJR 7001) for future Legislatures to raise taxes or fees, meaning any prospective increases must get the backing of at least two-thirds of each chamber on the floor. The Senate initially wanted a three-fifths majority but ultimately passed the House version. The amendment now heads to the November statewide ballot.