2018 Florida Legislative Session
Interim Week 4
Florida TaxWatch continues to attend every appropriations committee and sub-committee meeting. House subcommittees approved 18 appropriations project (member project) bills this week. This brings the total of approved projects to 24, worth $24.8 million. Approval in subcommittee does not ensure the projects will be funded, but it qualifies them for inclusion in the House budget. There have been 367 appropriation project bills filed already, requesting $651.9 million.
Senate appropriations subcommittees have also started hearing local funding requests. The Senate does not require an appropriation project bill, but does require a short presentation of the request (and a request form).
Several bills were heard in committee this week. Here are some highlights of bills that Florida TaxWatch will be monitoring this session:
Tangible Personal Property – Manufacturing – The Senate Judiciary Committee approve SJR 136. The joint resolution would bring a proposed constitutional amendment to the ballot that would allow the Legislature to exempt manufacturers from paying tangible personal property (TPP) taxes or assess them at less than just value through accelerated depreciation. Florida TaxWatch has done extensive research on both the benefits of promoting manufacturing in Florida and reducing/eliminating TPP taxes.
Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday – The Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee approved SB 620 to create a 10-day (June 1-10, 2018) sales tax exemption for disaster preparedness items. The following items (below certain specified prices) would be exempt from state and local sales taxes: flashlights, radios, tarps, “tie-down” kits, fuel tanks, batteries, cell phone chargers, food storage coolers, portable generators, storm shutter devices, carbon monoxide detectors, reusable ice, personal locator beacons, and emergency position-indicating radio beacons. See Florida TaxWatch research on sales tax holidays.
High-Speed Passenger Rail - The Senate Transportation Committee approved SB 572, which shifts the responsibility for costs associated with railroad-highway grade crossing construction, maintenance and repairs from local governments to the railroad companies. This is ostensibly part of Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River County’s ongoing efforts to derail All Aboard Florida’s proposed “Brightline” service, which would provide high-speed passenger rail service between Miami and Orlando with no planned stops in any of the three counties. For more on this issue, please read Florida TaxWatch’s March 2017 Session Spotlight entitled “All Aboard Florida Facing a Rough Track Ahead?”
Judicial Safety Valve – Florida TaxWatch Executive Vice President Robert Weissert spoke at a press conference at the Capitol with legislators who have sponsored bills to increase judicial discretion in sentencing. Florida TaxWatch research has found that mandatory minimums have led Florida prisons to incarcerate low-level offenders for unnecessarily lengthy sentences when many could be better served through alternative treatments and sanctions. This approach to sentencing results in the waste of valuable resources, at great expense to Florida taxpayers.
Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate – This week, Senator Dorothy Hukill filed SB 826 to increase the independence of this important taxpayer safeguard by having the Advocate report to the state Chief Inspector General, rather than the executive director of the Department of Revenue. It would also require an annual report that summarizes taxpayer complaints and the status of those complaints, the objectives of the Advocate and recommendations to resolve problems encountered by taxpayers. Florida TaxWatch chaired the legislatively created Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights Task Force which established the Advocate and supports increases its independence.