The 60-day regular session of the Florida Legislature will convene on March 2, 2010. As in most years, the first day of the session will be marked by speeches and ceremonies, including Governor Charlie Crist's State of the State speech. In a departure from the usual practice, the first day of the session also will see action on major bills when the Florida Senate takes up unemployment taxes, Public Service Commission ethics, and other issues.

The Senate is expected to pass its unemployment tax bill (SB 1666) on March 2, 2010, and, according to House Speaker Larry Cretul (R-Ocala), the House will follow suit later in the week. The bill (and its House companion, HB 7033) reduces the taxable wage base for two years, suspends the tax-rate adjustment factor that is ordinarily triggered by losses in the unemployment compensation trust fund, allows employers to pay unemployment taxes on a quarterly basis, and provides for employer assessments to pay interest on federal advances to the trust fund.

Without the bill, automatic adjustments will substantially increase the unemployment tax rate for all employers on April 1, 2010. Preventing the increases has been a top-priority issue for business interests.

The Senate also will take up SB 1034 by Sen. Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey), which revises ethical rules for Florida Public Service Commission members and staff. The bill limits ex parte communications between interested parties and commissioners or staff members, provides post-employment restrictions for staff members, and provides a four-year lobbying ban for former commissioners.

Other bills scheduled for full Senate consideration include bills relating to the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, reverse mortgages, and international banking corporations.