2016 Session - Committee Weeks

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The Legislature returned to Tallahassee for its second legislative committee week before the 2016 Regular Session. While some bills were considered and moved forward, most committees spent their time hearing budget requests from state agencies. 

In important Appropriations news, the Senate announced this week that it would follow in the House’s footsteps in 2016 by requiring all lawmakers to attach their names to budget requests. Organizations seeking funding from the Senate budget must also fill out two-page forms, which detail their requests for Senators and the public. 

As highlighted in our annual state budget review and Budget Turkey Watch report, these additional layers of accountability and transparency will make the appropriations process more easily understood by taxpayers.


The Senate advanced three separate tax cut proposals this week, each sponsored by Finance and Tax Chair Dorothy Hukill. The Banking and Insurance Committee passed SB 76 which would increase the corporate income tax exemption from $50,000 to $75,000. The Commerce and Tourism Committee passed SB 198 to create a 10-day “back to school” sales tax holiday for purchases of clothing, school supplies, and personal computers. The Community Affairs Committee passed SB 116 which would lower the sales tax rate on the commercial property rent from 6 percent to 5 percent. Florida TaxWatch strongly supports this tax reduction, as Florida is the only state in the nation which such a tax, putting Florida businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

In the House, the Finance and Tax Committee held a workshop on property taxes and to develop the committees work plan. Several property tax proposals were discusses, including replacing or reducing property taxes with an increased sales tax and the elimination of the Save Our Homes recapture rule. The list of potential topics for consideration that was developed is lengthy and far reaching. Chair Matt Gaetz stated one of his priorities is making the sales tax exemption for manufacturing machinery and equipment permanent, a long-time TaxWatch recommendation. He also said that combined reporting, due to the lack of a reliable estimate of the revenue that would be raised, was likely dead this session.


The Senate Education Appropriations committee announced it would be closely analyzing the base budget, and again this year requested information from all organizations receiving education-related state funds about the use of their taxpayer dollars.

The House Higher Education and Workforce Committee is considering changes to performance metrics, which dictate funding for the state’s community colleges, in order to better reflect how the colleges are meeting the needs of their students.

A bill is being drafted that will require FLDOE to permit accepted alternative forms of testing.

Economic Development

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity asked for $1.24 billion as their total budget request in 2016. Part of the request includes $85 million for job-incentive programs, which help attract companies to Florida, and $74 million for VisitFlorida, the state’s tourism marketing arm. Extensive Florida TaxWatch research has highlighted the importance of tourism to Florida’s economy, including job creation and diversification.

Health & Aging

The Low Income Pool debate is back in the spotlight again this session. After the 2015 regular session was derailed by health care spending issues, most notably Medicaid expansion, health care funding is already shaping up to be a contentious debate. The federal government is phasing out funds for university hospitals to pay for indigent care, monies known as the Low Income Pool. While lawmakers has $1 billion in LIP funds finally approved for this year, next year will only see $608 million in federal funds for the hospitals. So far, there hasn’t been a proposal to fill the gap left by the federal government.

While bills haven’t been filed yet, Senator Aaron Bean and Representative Mia Jones have committed to advancing telehealth bills in 2016. In September, Florida TaxWatch held the Telehealth Cornerstone Conference to encourage stakeholders to discuss options for moving telehealth forward in Florida.

Smart Justice

SB 84 which allows for judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentences for limited quantifies of specific controlled substances, passed its first committee stop, while SB 228, originally designed to remove mandatory minimum sentences for self-defense gun crimes (known as a warning shot), was amended to remove aggravated assault from 10-20-Life mandatory minimum penalties.

The Senate Criminal Justice Appropriations committee held a discussion on reentry programs for Florida inmates. Many Senators stressed the importance of employing ex-offenders. Senator Greg Evers stated, “The number one thing to decrease recidivism is a job.” Lawmakers also discussed issues that could prevent reemployment of offenders, such as substance abuse and mental health issues.

Pension Reform

No major action this week on pension reform.


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TEL: 850.222.5052     |     FAX: 850.222.7476

Media Inquiries:  Contact Morgan McCord by Email or Cell: 850.212.5052

Media Inquiries:
Contact Morgan McCord by Email
or Cell: 850.212.5052

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