Eighth Week of Session - April 20-24

With an extended or special session to finish the budget almost a certainty, yesterday the House sent a surprise budget offer to Senate.  They propose to use $200 million in state funds (drawing down an additional $305 million in federal funds) for the Low Income Pool (LIP) hospital funding program.

Interestingly, the House finds the LIP money by reducing a couple of high priorities of both the Governor and Legislature--tax cuts and education funding.  

Late today, the Senate countered with an offer to extend the session until June 30.  The Senate is maintaining its position on healthcare expansion and LIP and uses expected savings from their healthcare plan to match the House’s K-12 funding position.

With no more meetings scheduled, many bills are dying in committee.  There are several “trains” forming, as language from other bills are tacked onto bills that are moving.

For more information on any of these issues, please feel free to contact our Research staff by emailing
Stephani Meyers, Research Assistant.



Taxes

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TaxWatch Tax Priorities | Sales Taxes | Property Taxes | 
Property Taxes |  Corporate Income Taxes | General Tax Bills

House Tax Cut Package – The full House has passed its $689.2 million tax cut package—HB 7141.  The centerpiece of the proposal is a $470.5 million reduction in the communications services tax, a long-time Florida TaxWatch recommendations.  Other provisions supported by Florida TaxWatch research include a reduction in the sales tax on commercial leases and an increase in the research and development tax credit.  The package also includes three different sales tax holidays.  The rest is a patchwork of many different tax cuts, some of them very small and many that had not been part of any legislation so far this session.  For more information on the package, read this detailed Florida TaxWatch summary.  

The Senate has not formulated its tax package yet, citing the budget stalemate, although it has advanced several tax reduction bills (see below).  The final tax cut package will surely be part of the budget conference negotiations, whether it is during the regular session, or an extended/special one.  

Florida TaxWatch Tax Priorities

Communications Services Tax – Florida TaxWatch has been recommending a reduction in the CST for several years, finding that it would be the most justifiable way to give broad based tax relief to Floridians. Florida’s total state and local CST rate can reach as high as 16.29 percent, one of the highest rates in the nation.  Florida’s CST rate is also more than twice the highest state and local general sales tax rate in the state.  The largest reduction in the House tax cut package ($470.9 million) is a 3.6 percentage point reduction in the state portion of the CST, a tax levied on cell phones, cable and satellite television and non-residential landline phone service.  The state rate on phone and cable television would fall from 6.65 percent to 3.05 percent. The rate on satellite television would fall from 10.8 percent to 7.2 percent.  Consumers will save $43 annually for every $100 per month they spend on communications services. Since part of the state CST is shared with local governments, the bill changes the distribution to hold local governments harmless from the CST cut.  The House tax package (HB 7141) includes the CST reduction.  The Senate also has a CST reduction bill (SB 110) that has passed the Senate Finance and Tax Committee and is now in Appropriations.  

Sales Tax Exemption for Manufacturing Machinery and Equipment - The 2013 Legislature passed a three year exemption, set to expire April 30, 2017.  SB 544 and HB 613 would make the exemption permanent. This is a long-standing recommendation of Florida TaxWatch.  The extension will not cost the state any money this year, but recurring savings are expected to be $142.5 million annually. Under SB 544 and HB 613, the exemption for cement mixer drums enacted last year would still expire on April 30, 2017.   HB 613 has passed the Economic Development and Tourism Committee.   SB 544 has passed the Finance and Tax Committee.  This exemption is not part of the House tax cut package.  

Commercial Leases - Florida TaxWatch strongly supports the reduction/elimination of the sales tax on commercial leases, which is unique to Florida.  HB 101, SB 140, HB 245 and SB 1230 all would reduce the tax.  The first two would reduce the tax rate from 6 percent to 5 percent.  HB 245 and SB 1230 would create an increasing exemption.  The first $10,000 of lease payments would be exempted in FY 2105-16, and the exemption would increase by $10,000 annually, until it reached $90,000 in FY 2023-24.  SB 140 has passed two committees and is now in Appropriations.  A small reduction in the tax (0.2 percentage points) is part of the House tax package (HB 7141) which was approved by the full House.

Research and Development Tax Credit – SB 886 and HB 991 would increase the total amount of the current R&D tax credit that is available for all businesses from $9 million to $20 million annually.  While these bills have not been heard, the House tax package would increase the available credits to $23 million.

Sales Taxes

Sales Tax Holiday – HB 7141 creates another three day back to school sales tax holiday from July 31 to August 2, 2015.  During the holiday, clothing, footwear, wallets and bags that cost $100 or less are exempt from the state and local sales taxes.  Also exempt are school supplies costing $15 or less per item and the first $750 of the sales price for personal computers and related accessories purchased for noncommercial home or personal use. This will provide consumers with a one-time savings of $44.0 million.  HB 101 would create a permanent 3-day holiday on the same items but it has not been heard.

Sales Tax Exemption for College Textbooks - SB 938 would exempt college textbooks from the state and local sales tax. The exemption would apply to textbooks for both public and private institutions. College students would save an estimated $41.4 million per year, or $60 to $75 per student annually.  The state would lose $33.9 million annually, local governments would lose $7.5 million annually.  The Senate bill includes the textbook exemption, as well as other provisions aimed at keeping higher education affordable, such as requiring an annual report to the Legislature from Board of Governors and State Board of Education on their respective college affordability efforts.  SB 938 has passed the Higher Education Committee.  The House tax package contains the exemption.

Agricultural Exemptions - HB 249 and SB 398 -- would create and expand several agricultural sales tax exemptions:

  • Adds irrigation equipment and repair to the existing exemption for the sales or lease of farm equipment;
  • Exempts the sales price of up to $20,000 for a trailer weighing 12,000 pounds or less;
  • Exempts stakes used by a farmer to support plants during agricultural production; and
  • Expands the term “livestock” to include aquaculture species raised for commercial purposes.

SB 398, which would save $13.4 million annually, has passed the Senate Agriculture and Finance and Tax Committees.  The House tax package contains the exemptions.

Small Business Saturday Sales Tax Holiday - HB 259 and SB 384 would create a one-day holiday (November 28, 2015) during which no sales tax would be collected on any retail sale by a small business.  A small business would be a business that remitted less than $200,000 in sales taxes to the state during the previous year.  SB 384 cap the value of exempt items to $500 and HB 259 caps it at $1,000.  The fiscal impact of this legislation with the $1,000 cap is $40.3 million.  HB 259 has passed the Finance and Tax Committee.  SB 384 has passed two committees.  This is also part of the new House tax package.

Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive Program – This program, which tries to bring film and television productions to the state by offering sales and corporate income tax credits, has received a lot of attention this session.  A report by the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, which reviewed the return on investment for many of the state’s economic development programs, said the entertainment program is not recouping the state’s investment (in terms of produced state revenue).  SB 1046 and HB 451 make numerous changes to the program.  Florida TaxWatch was asked by the sponsor to review HB 451 and we found it makes significant improvements to the current program, including changing from a first-come first-served process to one that prioritizes based on expected economic return.  Both bills transfer and rename the Office of Film and Entertainment under the Department of Economic Opportunity as the Division of Film and Entertainment under Enterprise Florida. The Senate bill reduces the size of the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council and the House bill eliminates the Council.  SB 1046 also creates the Entertainment Action Fund Program to respond to extraordinary opportunities. A similar fund was removed from the House bill.  SB 1046 sets a sunset date of July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2025 for the action fund.   Under HB 451, the program would still expire July 1, 2016.  HB 451 was temporarily postponed on second reading this week. 

Property Taxes

Save Our Homes “Glitch” Bill - SJR 1142 is a proposed constitutional amendment to repeal the recapture provision which allows the assessed value of homestead property to increase by the SOH cap, even if the market value falls, provided that the assessed value does not exceed the just value.  The bill passed the Judiciary Committee this week.  There is no House companion.

Value Adjustment Boards (VAB) - HB 695 and SB 972 would make several changes to the VAB process including: taxpayers must sign the petition and interest on assessment and refunds would change from 12 percent to the prime rate.  SB 972 is on the Special Order Calendar for next week.  HB 695 also changes the composition of VABs from county commissioners, school board members, and citizen members to all citizen residents of the county appointed by their legislative delegation.  HB 695 was amended on second reading this week and is schedule for a floor vote next week.

HB 489 would allow a taxpayer to include multiple items of substantially similar tangible personal property on a single VAB petition and to pay a single petition filing fee.  HB 489 has passed the full House and Senate.   This bill now goes to the Governor.

Property Tax Exemptions - HB 173 would increase the property tax exemption for widows, blind persons, and totally and permanently disabled persons from $500 to $5,000.  The bill has been approved by the full House.  It is also in the House tax package.  There is no Senate companion.

Law Enforcement Services Special Assessment - SB 780 and HB 919 would allow the governing body of a municipality to levy this assessment to fund all or a portion of its costs of providing law enforcement services if the property tax millage is reduced by a similar amount.  SB 780 passed Fiscal Policy this week and was amended to limit the assessment to $200 per parcel.  HB 919 has passed the Finance & Tax Committee but still has another committee stop.  

Corporate Income Taxes

Corporate Income Tax “Piggy-Back” - Florida uses federal taxable income as the starting point for determining corporate income tax liability.  The Legislature passes an annual “piggyback” bill to conform to any changes in the federal tax code.  Sometimes the Legislature “de-couples” certain federal changes from Florida law and that it appears this will be the case in 2015.  The federal Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 extended two deductions: an increase in the first-year expensing deduction from $25,000 to $500,000 and a 50 percent bonus depreciation deduction.  It has been estimated that adopting these federal changes would cost Florida $180 million in FY 2015-16, with increases in revenue in subsequent years. HB 7009 de-couples these changes.  The bill would require Florida taxpayers to add-back the federal deductions and then allow them to subtract from income one-seventh of these amounts in the next six years.  The existing federal deductions are treated this way.  HB 7009 has been approved by both chambers.

Deduction for Defense Contractors - SB 980 and HB 529 create the Defense Works in Florida Incentive to allow a defense industry prime contractor to reduce its net income subject to tax in Florida by four percent of payments made under certain subcontracts awarded to a Florida small businesses. SB 980 was approved by Finance and Tax and is now in Appropriations.  It was amended to limit each contractor $125 million in subcontract awards per calendar year and the entire program is limited to $1.25 billion in subcontract awards per calendar year.  It is estimated this would save businesses $2.25 million annually.  This is also in the House tax package, where it has the original limits (twice as big as the SB 980) and would save contractors $5.5 million.

Corporate Income Tax Reduction - HB 49 and SB 138 would increase the standard corporate income tax exemption from $50,000 to $75,000, as was recommended by Governor Scott.  The exemption was increased from $5,000 to $25,000 in 2011 and to $50,000 in 2013.  The Governor's proposal to increase it to $75,000 last year did not pass.  This higher exemption would eliminate corporate income taxes for 2,189 out of 9,934 taxpayers (22.0 percent), and save $18.7 million annually.  Since it will apply to tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2016, the FY 2015-16 impact will be only $7.6 million. 
SB 138 has passed two committees and is now in its last committee of reference – Appropriations.  This is not part of the House tax package.

Community Contribution Tax Credit Program - HB 311 and SB 302 would delay the expiration of the program for 9 years, until June 30, 2025. Under this program, businesses that have made contributions to eligible projects (mostly homeownership opportunities for low-income people) may receive tax credits, equal to 50 percent of the contribution, which can be taken against sales and use taxes, corporate income taxes, and insurance premium taxes.   Total credits are limited to $21.9 annually.   HB 311 has passed the Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee and is now in Finance & Tax.  SB 302 has passed the Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Committee, where it was amended to allow the money to also be used for homeownership opportunities for persons with special needs.  The House tax package contains a one year extension.

Other Filed Tax Bills

Aviation FuelHB 595 and SB 722 would originally reduce the tax on aviation fuel from 6.9 cents per gallon to 5.4 cents per gallon.  This would be a revenue neutral change by eliminating a current provision that refunds all aviation fuel taxes paid by airlines that offer transcontinental jet service and that, after January 1, 1996, increased the air carrier’s Florida workforce by more than 1000 percent and by 250 or more full-time equivalent employee positions.  Proponents say this will level the playing field for all airlines operating in Florida. Both bills were amended last week.   House Finance and Tax amended HB 595 to remove the tax rate reduction and replace the current tax refund system with a new incentive program.  This would award $17.6 million to the top three airlines in Florida enplanements and Florida destinations served.   SB 722 was amended in Senate Finance and Tax to replace the current refund programs with a credit or refund “for any of three air carriers that has the greatest growth during a state fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2015.  Both bills have since been amended to go back to the original plan of lowering the rate and eliminating the refund.  The bills postpones the change for three years to allow airlines to adjust.  HB 595 has been approved by the full House.   SB 722 is in the Appropriations Committee.

Still in Committee - Time is Running Out

Direct Mail Advertising - SB 858 would create a sales tax exemption for DMA goods and services.  It has passed the Commerce and Tourism Committee and is now in Finance and Tax.

Renewable Energy Source Devices - SJR 400 and HJR 865 propose an amendment to the state Constitution that would exempt the assessed value of these devices from the tangible personal property tax and allow the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit consideration of the installation of such device in determining the assessed value for real property taxes. It would expire December 31, 2036.  SJR 400 has passed the Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee and HJR 865 has passed the Energy & Utilities Subcommittee.

Property Tax Discount for Spouse of Disabled Veterans - HJR 299 and SJR 910 propose an amendment to the state Constitution to authorize the living spouse of a deceased veteran, who upon death was aged 65 or older, partially or permanently disabled as a result of combat, and honorably discharged, to keep the discount on ad valorem taxes currently afforded the veteran.  The exemption is based on the percentage of the veteran's disability.  The exemption would be transferrable to another residence if the spouse remains unmarried and uses it as the primary residence.  SJR 910 passed the Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee last week.

Low Income Elderly Homestead Exemption - HJR 375 and SJR 652 propose an amendment to the state Constitution that would revise the current homestead tax exemption that may be granted by counties or municipalities for low-income, elderly people that have lived in their home for at least 25 years.  The current exemption is 100 percent of the assessed value of a homestead with a just value less than $250,000.  The amendment would lock in the just value of the home to its value when the exemption is originally applied for, meaning the taxpayer would not lose the exemption due to rising value.  SJR 652 passed the Community Affairs Committee last week.

Food Desert Tax Credit - SB 610 and HB 1107 provide an income tax credit for grocery businesses that sell nutrient-dense food items in areas designated as food deserts.  The credit would be equal to 20 percent of its annual sales.  SB 610 has passed one committee and is now in Finance and Tax.

 

 

Education

Passed Both Chambers

Testing, Student Assessments & Teacher Evaluations – HB 7069 will reduce testing time in Florida schools, capping the time students spend on state and local tests at 5 percent of their school hours, or up to 45 hours.  The legislation also reduces the reliance on test results in evaluating teacher performance from 50 percent to 33 percent of an evaluation. The bill eliminates the 11th-grade language arts test (ELA) and the Postsecondary Education Reading Test (PERT).  It eliminates the requirement that a school district administer a local end-of-course assessment for each course that is not assessed by a statewide, standardized assessment.  It codifies the rollout schedule for statewide, standardized computer-based testing and paper testing options through the 2017-2018 school year and requires independent verification of validity of statewide, standardized assessments before the results can be used to determine third grade retention or high school graduation.  The bill was approved by the full House and the Senate and has been signed into law by the Governor.

Passed One Chamber

Class Size Requirements - SB 818 and HB 665 revise the method for calculating the penalty for failure to comply with the class size requirements by performing the calculation at the school average instead of at the classroom level.  Florida TaxWatch released a report showing that adjusting the way class sizes are calculated will result in significant savings to Florida taxpayers, which can then be reinvested in measures that have been proven to improve student achievement.  Florida's class size limits have cost taxpayers more than $30 billion since voters approved them in a 2002 constitutional amendment. The report encourages the Legislature to adjust Florida's class size calculation to a school wide average. Applying the school level average calculation across all of Florida's public schools would allow school districts to comply with the class size reduction mandate, while reinvesting the savings into measures to improve teacher quality and student achievement. HB 665 has passed the full House.  SB 818 is on second reading.

Charter Schools/School Choice – HB 7037 aims to increase charter school accountability and increase student access.  It also changes some funding provisions.  It requires charter schools to begin submitting monthly financial statements upon approval of the charter contract, and clarifies that charter schools that earn two consecutive grades of “F” are automatically terminated.  It removes the limit on replication of high-performing charter schools if the school is created to serve high-need areas.  The bill also creates the Florida Institute for Charter School Innovation at Florida State University to provide technical assistance, conduct research on policy and practice and provide opportunities for aspiring teachers to experience teaching in charter schools.  The bill to earmarks $1 million annually for the institute.  The bill has passed the full House.   HB 357 establishes the Principal Autonomy Pilot Program Initiative (PAPPI) to provide the principals of schools in participating school districts with increased autonomy and authority regarding allocation of resources and staffing, similar to charter schools.  This bill has also passed the House.   SB 1552 and HB 1145 expand school choice by allowing a student to attend an out of district school, provided it has capacity and the parents provide transportation.  They also include the PAPPI program and SB 1552 includes the charter school institute provisions.  SB 1552 passed the Appropriations Committee this week.  HB 1145 passed the full House this week.

Ready for Floor Vote

Digital Classrooms – SB 1264 directs the Agency for State Technology (AST) to establish information technology architecture standards for purposes of implementing the state’s new digital classroom funding allocation.  AST must collaborate with the Departments of Education and Management Services to identify state procurement options and shared services available through the State Data Center to facilitate implementation digital classrooms.  AST must also do an annual assessment and provide planning assistance to address issues identified by the assessment.  The bill appropriates $10.0 million to the Agency for State Technology.   SB 1264 passed the Appropriations Committee this week.   This language has also been added to SB 948, the Senate education “train”.  That bill contains many education related changes, including provisions that are in other bills that are advancing.  SB 948 also passed the Appropriations Committee this week.

Reducing Educational Facility Costs - HB 181 and SB 448 aims to provide cost savings to school districts by allowing them to implement exceptions to the State Requirements for Educational Facilities – the public education building code.  These exceptions relate to the use of wood studs in interior nonload-bearing walls, paved walkways, roadways, driveways, and parking areas, covered walkways for relocatable buildings, and site lighting.  A school board must hold a workshop and then the resolution must pass by a supermajority vote at a public meeting.  The school board must conduct a cost-benefit analysis prepared according to a professionally accepted methodology that describes how each exception achieves cost savings, improves the efficient use of school district resources, and impacts the life-cycle costs and life span for the facility. The cost-benefit analysis must also demonstrate that implementation of the exception will not compromise student safety or the quality of student instruction.  HB 181 is on second reading.  SB 448 has passed the Education Pre-K – 12 Committee.  This language has also been added to SB 948, the Senate education “train”.  That bill contains many education related changes, including provisions that are in other bills that are advancing.  SB 948 also passed the Appropriations Committee this week.

Economic Development

Passed Both Chambers

Freight Mobility and Logistics - HB 257 defines a freight logistics zone and allows a county, or two or more contiguous counties to designate one. Projects within freight logistics zones, which are consistent with the Department of Transportation’s Freight Mobility and Trade Plan, may be eligible for priority in state funding and certain incentive programs.  HB 257 was approved by both the House and Senate this week.   Florida TaxWatch research has highlighted the importance of freight mobility to Florida’s economy.

Passed One Chamber

Start-up and Second-stage CompaniesHB 7067 would also create the “Startup Florida Initiative”, which would encourage start-up and second-stage company growth. Florida TaxWatch recently released a report titled “Cultivating Florida’s Second-Stage Companies: Examining the Benefits of Expanding the Statewide Impact of the GrowFL Program,” that highlighted the benefits of second-stage companies, including the creation of 394,000 net new jobs in Florida from 2009 to 2013. HB 7067 was approved by the full House this week.

Seaports – HB 7039, in addition to several provisions related to the organization and operation of the Florida Department of Transportation, increases the funding for the Florida Seaport and Economic Development (FSTED) Program from $15 million to $25 million per year. The bill has passed the full House.  SB 1554 is the Senate’s version of the omnibus transportation bill and it also contains the seaport funding.  SB 1554 was on the Appropriations Committee agenda this week but it was not considered.

Replacing the Enterprise Zone Program – While it appears that the state enterprise zone program will not be renewed, the House is advancing legislation (HB 7067) that would replace the state program with a Local Enterprise Zone Program.  Local government could exempt eligible businesses from several taxes, fees and regulations.  While there would no longer be any state tax incentives, the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) would be allowed to advertise the local program to attract businesses.  HB 7067 was approved by the full House this week.

Ready for a Floor Vote

Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive Program – This program, which tries to bring film and television productions to the state by offering tax credits, has received a lot of attention this session.  A report by the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, which reviewed the return on investment for many of the state’s economic development programs, said the entertainment program is not recouping the state’s investment (in terms of produced state revenue).  SB 1046 and HB 451 make numerous changes to the program.  Florida TaxWatch was asked by the sponsor to review HB 451 and we found it makes significant improvements to the current program, including changing from a first-come first-served process to one that prioritizes based on expected economic return.  Both bills transfer and rename the Office of Film and Entertainment under the Department of Economic Opportunity as the Division of Film and Entertainment under Enterprise Florida. The Senate bill reduces the size of the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council and the House bill eliminates the Council.  SB 1046 also creates the Entertainment Action Fund Program to respond to extraordinary opportunities. A similar fund was removed from the House bill.  SB 1046 sets a sunset date of July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2025 for the action fund.   Under HB 451, the program would still expire July 1, 2016.  HB 451 was temporarily postponed on second reading this week.   The Senate bill is still in committee, but the language was amended onto an omnibus economic development bill (SB 1214) this week.

Qualified Television Revolving Loan Fund - HB 237 and SB 196 create a qualified television revolving loan fund - an “evergreen” fund privately managed under state oversight, which offers loans (term limited to 36 months) for qualified television content production throughout the state. The program would use state money and private funds raised by a third-party loan administrator. Neither the bill nor the current House budget contain an appropriation for the fund.  HB 237 is on 2nd reading but may not make it to a floor vote.  The Senate companion has not been heard.

Economic Development Programs – Both chambers have omnibus economic development bills that make numerous changes to several programs.  SB 1214 and HB 7067 have become “trains”, with even more provisions from other bills added this week.   SB 1214 standardizes the incentives application process, limits most incentive agreements to 10 years and requires capital investment to remain in the state for the duration of the contract.  It also sets approval requirements for different thresholds such as allowing the Governor to approve projects requiring less than $2 million without legislative notice or approval.  The bill also makes additional changes to the Quick Action Closing (QAC) Fund and the Qualified Target Industry Business (QTI) Tax Refund.  The bill passed the Appropriations Committee this week with even more provisions added, some of them controversial.  HB 7067 also makes numerous changes including creating a new approval process for performance-based cash incentive programs and  capping economic development incentive programs at $60 million  annually.  The full House passed the bill this week.

Still in Committee – Time is Running Out

Renewing the Enterprise Zone Program - There has been much discussion of Enterprise Zones this session, as the program is scheduled to sunset in December 2015.  Florida TaxWatch has testified at committee hearings, referencing our recent analysis of the program.  The report calls on the Legislature to revise and extend the state's Enterprise Zone program, designed to revitalize and redevelop distressed, blighted areas in Florida. However, it appears that the state enterprise zone program will not be renewed.  Bills to extend and revise the program (HB 903, SB 1556 and SB 392) have not been heard.  The House is advancing legislation (HB 7067) that would replace the state program with a Local Enterprise Zone Program.  

Sales Tax Exemption for Manufacturing Machinery and Equipment - The 2013 Legislature passed a three year exemption, set to expire April 30, 2017.  SB 544 and HB 613 would make the exemption permanent. This is a long-standing recommendation of Florida TaxWatch.  The extension will not cost the state any money this year, but recurring tax savings are expected to be $142.5 million annually. Under the bills, the exemption for cement mixer drums enacted last year would still expire on April 30, 2017. SB 544 has passed two committees and is now in Appropriations.  This exemption is not part of the House tax cut package. 

Freight Mobility and Trade - HB 331 and SB 958 would direct a portion of motor vehicle fees, such as title fees, to be set aside for specified freight mobility & trade projects. These bills have not been heard.

Community Contribution Tax Credit Program - HB 311 and SB 302 would delay the expiration of the program for 9 years, until June 30, 2025. Under this program, businesses that have made contributions to eligible projects (mostly homeownership opportunities for low-income people) may receive tax credits, equal to 50 percent of the contribution, which can be taken against sales and use taxes, corporate income taxes, and insurance premium taxes.   While the longer extension is still stuck in committee, a one year extension of this program is included in the House tax cut package, which has been approved by the full House.

Small Business Financial Assistance - SB 292 and HB 797 would create the Veterans Employment Small Business Grant Program within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.  SB 292 has been approved by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development.

Incentives for Small Technology Companies – SB 1090 would authorize the provision of loans to small technology companies through the Microfinance Guarantee Program.  It would appropriate $50 million for these loans.

New Small Business Tax CreditSB 128 and HB 517 would create a new corporate income tax credit for new small businesses.  If qualified, the business would receive a $1,500 credit for each employee, up to a maximum total credit of $21,000.

Community Creative Grant Program - SB 1030 would have created this alternative to the expiring Enterprise Zone program.  The program would be a competitive process through which cities and counties could apply for grants to fund local economic development projects.  The bill has not been heard.

Health & Aging

Healthcare Expansion – The biggest fiscal issue remaining this session is no closer to being resolved.  The Senate has passed SB 2512 that would help up to 1 million low-income Floridians acquire access to affordable healthcare.  The proposal is an alternative to the Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act but, pending federal approval, would still allow Florida to draw down billions in federal funding.  The bill would create a health-insurance "marketplace," where low-income people would shop for plans. People with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level that do not qualify for Medicaid would be eligible.  These income limits are currently $16,000 a year for individuals and $33,000 for families of four.  Participants would pay monthly premiums ranging from $3 to $25 dollars and there is a requirement to be working or looking for work.  These provisions may be obstacles to federal approval.  The bigger obstacle is the refusal of the House to consider the plan.  It appears the stalemate on this issue means there will be no budget agreement before the scheduled end of the session on May 1.

Low Income Pool (LIP) - The loss of federal funding for LIP is at the root of the healthcare expansion debate. LIP provides more than $2 billion to hospitals and other providers to fund indigent care and other Floridians in need.  Under LIP, funds contributed by local governments are combined with federal matching funds.  LIP has existed since 2006, but the federal government has made it clear it will not continue funding the current program. The House budget does not include funding for LIP but House leaders have stated they expect federal funding to continue.  The Senate has created an alternative plan for LIP and funds it in its budget at $2.17 billion.  The Senate is confident its new LIP design satisfies the federal objections to the current program. The plan directs more funds to increase base hospital rates and more broadly distributes LIP dollars.  Funds previously allocated to specific hospitals will instead be distributed in a broad-based system so that all hospitals can benefit.  The drawn down of billions in federal funding through the Senate’s healthcare expansion plan allows for the funding of LIP.  Last week, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) informed the state that the approval of LIP is contingent on healthcare expansion.  In response, the Governor announced he will sue the federal government because he believes CMS’s stance violates the Supreme Court’s ruling that Washington cannot coerce states to expand Medicaid.  Late this week, the House sent an offer to the Senate that would use $200 million in state funds (drawing down $305 million in federal funds) for LIP.

Passed Both Chambers

Behavioral Health - HB 79 creates the Crisis Stabilization Services Utilization Database. The bills require DCF to develop, implement, and maintain standards under which a behavioral health managing entity will be required to collect utilization data from public receiving facilities. It provides $175,000 to DCF for implementation.  A recent Florida TaxWatch report emphasized the use of such data to inform behavioral health funding decisions.  Both chambers passed HB 79 this week.  

ARNP/PA Scope of Practice - HB 335 would expand Baker Act powers to nurse practitioners with certain mental health certifications.  The measure allows a psychiatric nurse to discharge or order emergency treatment for a patient held under the Baker Act.  The bill was approved by both chambers this week. 

Ready for a Floor Vote

ARNP/PA Scope of Practice – SB 532 provides authority for an advanced registered nurse practitioner to order any medication for administration to a patient in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, or mobile surgical facility.  The bill passed the Appropriations Committee this week.  The House companion (HB 281) has passed all its committees and is on second reading.  The Florida TaxWatch Center for Health and Aging has released reports detailing the benefits of expanding nurse and physician assistant scope of practice.  A more comprehensive scope of practice bill (HB 547) is on second reading.   SB 614 would allow ARNPs and PAs to prescribe brand drugs under their current supervisory standards and limits the prescribing of controlled substances in a pain-management clinic to physicians. It passed the Rules Committee this week.    

Behavioral Health – Earlier this session, Florida TaxWatch released an analysis of Florida’s Behavioral Health Managing Entity (BHME) system, through which the state delivers mental health and substance abuse services to uninsured Floridians. The report shows the BHME model is working well, despite limited funding.  It also offer recommendations to improve the system.  A number of behavioral health bills have been filed and many advance these concepts. 

HB 7119 revises Florida’s DCF-managed behavioral health safety-net system.  The bill would allow for-profit entities to bid to becoming managing entities when fewer than two responsive bids from non-profits are received. It also extends the age to qualify for the state’s child and adolescent mental health system of care from 18 to 21.  It requires care coordination and prioritization of the populations served, as well as performance standards that measure improvement in a community’s behavioral health and in specified individuals’ functioning or progress toward recovery.  The bill also requires DCF to create the Crisis Stabilization Services Utilization database.  Further, the bill requires DCF to contract for a study of the safety-net system, to include an examination of options for increasing the availability of federal Medicaid services.  The House proposed budget contains $200,000 for such a study and $175,000 to help the managing entities comply with the expanded reporting requirements contained within the bill.  SB 7119 is on second reading. 

SB 7068 makes changes to the state’s delivery of behavioral health services. The bill requires the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to develop a plan to obtain federal approval to increase Medicaid funding for behavioral health care.  The bill also reorganizes behavioral health managing entities, requiring them to create a coordinated care organization in each region of the state. This will create a network of behavioral health care providers offering a comprehensive range of services and capable of integrating behavioral health care and primary care.  SB 7068 was amended and passed by the full Senate this week.

SB 7070 attempts to better integrate state substance abuse services (the Marchman Act) with mental health services (the Baker Act).  The bill provides that an individual may be held for an additional 48 hours if a physician determines the individual would benefit from detoxification services. The bill directs the DCF to include substance abuse in a complete and comprehensive statewide program of mental health and to establish a continuity of care management system for the provision of mental health and substance abuse care.  The bill also requires providers to distribute information concerning mental health or substance abuse treatment advance directives and creates the Forensic Hospital Diversion Pilot Program to provide competency-restoration and community-reintegration services in locked residential treatment facilities, based on consideration of public safety, the needs of the individual, and available resources.  This legislation should result in more persons having access to substance abuse treatment during emergency behavioral health care that must be deliver under the Baker Act. The state could also save money when patients are diverted from inpatient settings to outpatient settings under the bill.  SB 7070 is on the Special Order Calendar.

(also, see the Smart Justice of this update for information on bills related to behavioral health services in the criminal justice system):

Still in Committee - Time is Running Out

Telehealth - Telehealth involves providers using the Internet and other technology to care for patients remotely.  It can increase access to health care in areas such as rural communities.  Some healthcare providers are beginning to use telehealth and the bills (HB 545 and SB 478) would authorizes Florida licensed health care professionals to use telehealth to deliver services within their respective scopes of practice. The bills sets practice standards and allows prescription through telehealth. The bills also prohibit the prescription of chronic pain medications. The Senate bill further prohibits the prescription of eyeglasses and contact lenses through a solely telehealth diagnosis.   Telehealth is a priority of the Florida TaxWatch Center for Health and Aging (see report).    SB 478 is in its final committee stop--Appropriations.  HB 545 is stuck in its second committee. 

Medical Tourism - SB 86 and HB 945 aim to establish Florida as a worldwide destination for medical tourism.  Enterprise Florida, in collaboration with the Department of Economic Opportunity, is directed to market Florida as a health care destination.  The Division of Tourism Marketing would be required to include the promotion of medical tourism in a four-year marketing plan, which would specifically promote national and international awareness of healthcare specialties and expertise, and showcase key healthcare providers. An annual minimum of $3.5 million would be appropriated from state general revenue to Florida Tourism Industry Marketing for developing and implementing medical tourism marketing. The bill also creates a $1.5 million matching grant program to encourage medical tourism through local and regional economic development organizations. While similar legislation failed last session, the budget provided $5 million to Visit Florida to develop a medical tourism marketing plan and to provide medical tourism matching grants.  See Florida TaxWatch report on Medical Tourism.  While these bills have not been heard, a new bill (SB 7084) late in the session which requires Enterprise Florida, Inc. to include specific initiatives to establish Florida as a destination for quality, medical services. The plan must promote the state nationally and internationally.  The bill passed the Health Policy Committee unanimously.  Also, HB 7047 was amended in the House Health and Human Services Committee to include the Senate medial tourism language.  While this bill is ready for the floor, it has not been added to the calendar.

There are numerous other behavioral health bills still in committee:

SB 1462 – In addition to creating the Crisis Stabilization Services Utilization Database (see HB 79 above), the bill authorizes counties to fund treatment based mental health courts and directs AHCA to submit a federal waiver or a Medicaid state plan amendment for the provision of health homes for individuals with chronic conditions, including severe mental illnesses or substance use disorders. The agency is also directed to apply to the federal government for a grant that creates improved access to community mental health services. It has passed the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee.  

SB 1340 and HB 1017 create the Substance Abuse Assistance Pilot Program to develop safe and cost efficient treatment alternatives.  DCF may contract with BHMEs or Medicaid managed care organizations to manage the program.  They also create a process for an adult to execute a mental health or substance abuse treatment advance directive to guide their treatment should they become incapacitated.  SB 1340 has passed the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee.

HB 1277 would establish the Priority Care Pilot Project to provide access to care for priority target adults with serious mental illness and a history that indicates they could pose a threat to public safety.  It also establishes service requirements for Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), requiring DCF to fund BHMEs “at sufficient levels” for their management of AOT.

SB 1476: creates a mental health treatment bed registry website that collects and publishes utilization data regarding available treatment beds in real-time.  The data would be accessible by facility administrators, service providers, health care providers, and county law enforcement. 

HB 1005: Creates the Behavioral Health Task Force to, among other duties, evaluate whether current funding for BHMEs is adequate.   It also requires that DCF create a new SAMH data collection system with the goal of reducing system fragmentation and improving coordination of care.  It also creates a $450,000 student loan forgiveness program for personnel who work at community behavioral health centers.

SB 1338 is the “Excellence in Behavioral Health Act”.  It creates the Behavioral Health Task Force within DCF.  It also authorizes counties to fund treatment-based mental health court programs and requires the Agency for Health Care Administration to implement a prospective payment methodology for reimbursement rates at community behavioral health centers.  The bill appropriated $110 million to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for behavioral health services providers to the actual cost of providing such services.

Immigrant Access to KidCare—SB 294 and HB 829 would do away with a five-year waiting period for immigrant children to be eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  The bill covers “lawfully residing” children and does not extend to undocumented immigrants. This expansion is expected to cost the state $4.8 million annually. SB 294 cleared two committees prior to the start of session but has not been heard since.  HB 829 has not been heard.

 

Smart Justice

Passed Both Chambers

Civil Citations - Civil Citation Programs give law enforcement officers an alternative to arresting youth who have committed non-serious delinquent acts.  Florida TaxWatch research has shown the benefits of expanding civil citations.  SB 378 would also expand civil citations by allowing law enforcement to issue a civil citation to youth who have committed a second or subsequent misdemeanor. (Civil citation is presently only available to youth who admit to committing a first-time misdemeanor.)  It also authorizes a law enforcement officer to issue a warning to a juvenile who admits having committed a misdemeanor or to inform the child’s parents. If the officer does not use one of these options, the officer may issue a civil citation or require participation in a similar diversion program.  The bill does provide that, in exceptional situations, an officer may arrest a first-time misdemeanor offender in the interest of protecting public safety.  SB 378 was approved by both chambers this week.   

Passed One Chamber

Problem Solving Courts – HB 1069 provides that a person eligible to participate in any type of problem solving court, not just a preadjudicatory drug court, may have their case transferred to another county if certain requirements are met.  This could help expand the use of these courts. The bill defines “problem-solving court” to include preadjudicatory and postadjudicatory drug courts, preadjudicatory and postadjudicatory veterans' courts, and mental health courts.  Florida TaxWatch research has shown the benefits of these courts as cost-effective diversion programs. HB 1069 has passed the full House and was scheduled for a vote in the Senate today, but it was temporarily postponed.

Mental Health Services – SB 1452 and HB 7113 attempt to expand Florida’s mental health courts, veterans’ courts, drug courts, and juvenile delinquency pretrial intervention programs.  These programs provide pretrial or postadjudicatory alternatives for some offenders, allowing them to access programs and treatment options.  Some of the provisions include expanding participation in veterans’ court, allowing counties to create and fund treatment-based mental health court programs creating a Forensic Hospital Diversion Pilot Program, allowing judges to require qualifying veterans to participate in treatment programs as part of their probation or community control and allowing a juvenile offender with a mental illness to be admitted to a delinquency pretrial treatment program and allows a judge to dismiss charges against the juvenile upon the successful completion of the program.  Florida TaxWatch has recommend the expansion of these programs to help reduce recidivism.  SB 1452 has passed the Judiciary Committee. HB 7113 has passed the full House.

Prison Reform - SB 7020 addresses prison reform, making a number of changes including requiring periodic safety inspections and audits, specialized training for dealing with mentally ill inmates and allowing staff to make confidential reports of inmate abuse or neglect.  The bill also creates an independent commission to provide oversight of the state’s prison system.  Florida TaxWatch has recommended such an oversight commission.  It also addresses another Florida TaxWatch recommendation (see Elderly Release below) with several provisions:

  • Requiring the Criminal Justice Estimating Conference to project prison admissions for elderly felony offenders;
  • Requiring standards of care criteria for the needs of inmates over age 50; 
  • Allowing an inmate’s family or lawyer to hire and pay for an independent medical evaluation; and
  • Expanding the existing conditional medical release program to include elderly and infirm inmates which would allow the Commission on Offender Review to consider the release of elderly and infirm inmates.

SB 7020 has passed the full Senate.  The House prison reform (HB 7131) is more limited than the Senate bill and does not contain the independent oversight commission.  Both bills are on Special Order Calendar in the House.

Still in Committee - Time is Running Out

Elderly Release – HB 785 creates the Supervised Conditional Elderly Release Program for inmates 65 years of age or older who pose low risk to society. The bill allows specific elderly inmates to reduce their sentence by up to 50 percent if they meet certain criteria and receive a favorable determination from the Florida Commission on Offender Review. It also expands eligibility for Conditional Medical Release to include severely ill or disabled inmates that do not meet the current 180 day life expectancy requirement. A recent Florida TaxWatch report warns that as the average age of the prison population rises and the number of elderly prisoners multiplies, the cost of lengthy sentences and prisoner healthcare needs threaten a substantial rise in Florida’s Corrections budget.  The report offers options for reform.

Job Tax Credit - HB 121 and SB 356 would create a $1,000 corporate income tax credit for hiring a person who has been convicted of a felony and who remains continuously employed by the corporation for at least 1 year. The credit may be taken only once per new employee and is not available for violent offenders or sexual offenders or predators.

Education Gain-Time – HB 591 would increase the amount of incentive gain-time awarded to an inmate for completing a high school equivalency diploma or vocational certificate from 60 to 120 days.

Inmate ReentrySB 1384 would require the Department of Corrections to develop and administer a reentry program for nonviolent offenders, which is intended to divert nonviolent offenders from long periods of incarceration.  It also requires that assessments of vocational skills and future career education be provided to offenders.

Mandatory Minimum SentencingHB 881 and SB 1092 would allow a judge to impose a sentence less than the mandatory minimum sentence if the unique circumstances of the case indicate that the offender does not pose a threat to the public and the mandatory minimum sentence does not fulfill the goal of punishment and other sentencing criteria.

Pension Reform

Florida Retirement System Reform

Major reform of the FRS will not happen this session.  Earlier, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said the House would not pursue FRS reform. His announcement was in response to an actuarial study that looked at closing the defined benefit pension plan to new employees and placing them in the investment plan, as recommended by the Florida TaxWatch Center for Government Efficiency. The Speaker said “The results from the most recent study of the very same bill changed from several billions of dollars in savings to millions of dollars in costs.  Given the unexpected and puzzling report, we believe it is important to pause and understand what factors caused such a dramatic shift." 

While a bill closing the defined benefit plan to new employees was not filed, there are some bills proposing smaller changes to the FRS.

HB 565 would create a 6-month period to allow local governments participating in FRS to reassess Senior Management and to request removal from the class of any such positions that it deems appropriate.  The bill allows for possible subsequent reviews and reclassifications every five years.  The bill could save FRS local government money by using the additional flexibility to reduce the number of positions classified as Senior Management.  HB 565 passed the full House this week, and is scheduled for a vote in the Senate.

SB 7042 and HB 1249 would allow FRS retirees to come back to work for the state and participate only in the investment plan.  The bill is in response to a 2010 law designed to end double-dipping, which provided that when an employee returned, they could not renew their membership in FRS.  While critics say the bill could lead to double-dipping again, proponents say the current law disincentivizes workers from coming back to work for the state.  More than 11,000 employees have returned to state work since June 30, 2010.  They cannot join the FRS again.  SB 7042 had been approved as a proposed committee bill by the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, but received no other hearing.  

Local Pension Reform

SB 172 would change the distribution of insurance premium tax revenues that provides some funding for Florida’s municipal police and fire pension plans. The current system which mandates that revenue over a certain threshold be used for additional benefits is becoming unsustainable. The bills authorize deviation from the specified uses of premium tax revenues, by mutual consent of collective bargaining representatives or majority consent of plan members.  The bill permits a reduction in plan benefits that are provided over the minimum benefit levels if the plan provides a 2.75 percent accrual rate, and directs how the freed up money must be used. Both the Senate and House passed the bill this week.  See this statement from Florida TaxWatch about why this is only a first step to reform, and why it isn’t considered true pension reform.

HB 1279 also addresses police and firefighter pension plans.  For local plans that provide benefits for both firefighters and police officers in municipalities with a population of 800,000 or more, the bill expands the board membership to nine members. It provides that four of the members must be appointed by the governing body of the municipality, two must be firefighters, and two must be police officers.  It also requires that plans funded under 50 percent must, every 3 years, conduct an internal audit of the plan's management and accounting practices and investments.  The original bill was strongly supported by Florida TaxWatch research, but it has been substantially watered down.  It is on 2nd reading, but there is no House companion measure.

SB 242 and HB 1309 would require local government pension plans to use mortality table methodologies consistent with the methodologies by the Florida Retirement System (FRS). In most instances, the mortality tables used will recognize longer lifetimes for annuitants and result in higher annual contributions being required to be paid into the pension funds in the near term.  HB 1309 has passed the full House.   SB 242 is on the Special Order Calendar.

Cost Savings

 

A number of bills have been filed that are related to current and past recommendations of the Florida TaxWatch Center for Government Efficiency.

Passed Both Chambers

Civil Citations - Civil Citation Programs give law enforcement officers an alternative to arresting youth who have committed non-serious delinquent acts.  Florida TaxWatch research has shown the benefits of expanding civil citations.  SB 378 would also expand civil citations by allowing law enforcement to issue a civil citation to youth who have committed a second or subsequent misdemeanor. (Civil citation is presently only available to youth who admit to committing a first-time misdemeanor.)  It also authorizes a law enforcement officer to issue a warning to a juvenile who admits having committed a misdemeanor or to inform the child’s parents. If the officer does not use one of these options, the officer may issue a civil citation or require participation in a similar diversion program.  The bill does provide that, in exceptional situations, an officer may arrest a first-time misdemeanor offender in the interest of protecting public safety.  SB 378 was approved by both chambers this week.  

Problem Solving Courts – HB 1069 provides that a person eligible to participate in any type of problem solving court, not just a preadjudicatory drug court, may have their case transferred to another county if certain requirements are met.  This could help expand the use of these courts. The bill defines “problem-solving court” to include preadjudicatory and postadjudicatory drug courts, preadjudicatory and postadjudicatory veterans' courts, and mental health courts.  Florida TaxWatch research has shown the benefits of these courts, as cost-effective diversion programs.  HB 1069 was approved by both chambers this week. 

ARNP/PA Scope of Practice - HB 335 would expand Baker Act powers to nurse practitioners with certain mental health certifications.  The measure allows a psychiatric nurse to discharge or order emergency treatment for a patient held under the Baker Act.  The bill was approved by both chambers this week. 

Corrections Review and Oversight - SB 7020 creates an independent commission to provide oversight of the state’s prison system.  The bill has passed the full House. See the Criminal Justice portion of the update for more information on the omnibus bill.  The Senate prison reform bill does not contain the commission.

Early ReleaseSB 7020 expands the existing conditional medical release program to include elderly and infirm inmates which would allow the Commission on Offender Review to consider the release of elderly and infirm inmates.  The bill has passed the full House. See the Criminal Justice portion of the update for more information on the omnibus bill.

Procurement - SB 778 could reduce costs through increased competition by prohibiting local ordinances and regulations from restricting a certified contractor’s competition for award of a contract for construction services based upon certain conditions when the state is paying 50% or more.  SB 778 was approved by both chambers this week.   SB 574 and HB 615 would allow school districts to use on-line procurement and electronic auctions.  Allows DOE to use electronic auctions to help districts procure buses. HB 615 has passed the Government Operations Subcommittee.    SB 574 is on third reading.   

Agency Inspectors General - HB 371 would provide additional employment qualifications for inspectors general & staff.  The bills expand the records and personnel accessible to inspector general during audit or investigation, authorizes inspectors general to administer oaths, and authorizes Chief Inspectors General to issue and enforce subpoenas. They also require personnel to comply with requests of inspectors general under penalty of loss of employment.  HB 371 was approved by the full House and Senate and Florida TaxWatch released a statement on the bill.  

Passed One Chamber

Mental Health Services – SB 1452 and HB 7113 attempt to expand Florida’s mental health courts, veterans’ courts, drug courts, and juvenile delinquency pretrial intervention programs.  These programs provide pretrial or postadjudicatory alternatives for some offenders, allowing them to access programs and treatment options.  Some of the provisions include expanding participation in veterans’ court, allowing counties to create and fund treatment-based mental health court programs, creating a Forensic Hospital Diversion Pilot Program, allowing judges to require qualifying veterans to participate in treatment programs as part of their probation or community control and allowing a juvenile offender with a mental illness to be admitted to a delinquency pretrial treatment program and allows a judge to dismiss charges against the juvenile upon the successful completion of the program.  Florida TaxWatch has recommend the expansion of these programs to help reduce recidivism.  HB 7113 has been approved by the full House.  SB 1452 has passed the Judiciary Committee. 

Class Size Requirements - SB 818 and HB 665 revise the method for calculating the penalty for failure to comply with the class size requirements by performing the calculation at the school average instead of at the classroom level.  Florida TaxWatch released a report showing that adjusting the way class sizes are calculated will result in significant savings to Florida taxpayers, which can then be reinvested in measures that have been proven to improve student achievement.  Florida's class size limits have cost taxpayers more than $30 billion since voters approved them in a 2002 constitutional amendment. The report encourages the Legislature to adjust Florida's class size calculation to a school wide average. Applying the school level average calculation across all of Florida's public schools would allow school districts to comply with the class size reduction mandate, while reinvesting the savings into measures to improve teacher quality and student achievement. HB 665 has passed the full House.  SB 818 is on second reading.

Ready for a Floor Vote

ARNP/PA Scope of Practice – SB 532 provides authority for an advanced registered nurse practitioner to order any medication for administration to a patient in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, or mobile surgical facility.  The bill passed the Appropriations Committee this week.  The House companion (HB 281) has passed all its committees and is on second reading.  The Florida TaxWatch Center for Health and Aging has released reports detailing the benefits of expanding nurse and physician assistant scope of practice.  A more comprehensive scope of practice bill (HB 547) is on second reading.   SB 614 would allow ARNPs and PAs to prescribe brand drugs under their current supervisory standards and limits the prescribing of controlled substances in a pain-management clinic to physicians. It passed the Rules Committee this week.    

Pension Reform - While a bill closing the defined benefit plan to new employees was not filed, there are some bills proposing smaller changes to the FRS. HB 565 and SB 1054 would create a 6-month period to allow local governments participating in FRS to reassess Senior Management and to request removal from the class of any such positions that it deems appropriate.  The bill allows for possible subsequent reviews and reclassifications every five years.  The bill could save FRS local government money by using the additional flexibility to reduce the number of positions classified as Senior Management.  Both bills are now on second reading.

Local pension reform is moving forward.  See the Pension Reform section of this Legislative Update for more information.

Still in Committee - Time is Running Out

Telehealth - CGE has recommended that the Legislature remove disincentives and barriers to use of telehealth services and provide a foundation for statewide expansion of telehealth.  Telehealth involves providers using the Internet and other technology to care for patients remotely.  It can increase access to health care in areas such as rural communities.  Legislation (HB 545 and SB 478) would authorizes Florida licensed health care professionals to use telehealth to deliver services within their respective scopes of practice. The bills sets practice standards and allows prescription through telehealth. The bills also prohibit the prescription of chronic pain medications. The Senate bill further prohibits the prescription of eyeglasses and contact lenses through a solely telehealth diagnosis.   Telehealth is a priority of the Florida TaxWatch Center for Health and Aging (see report).    SB 478 is now in its final committee stop--Appropriations.  HB 545 is stuck in its second committee. 

Collection of Sales Taxes on Remote Sales - Florida TaxWatch has been researching this issue and recommending solutions for more than 10 years.   Many bills have been filed to help address this over the years.  This year, SB 310 would bring Florida fully into the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, which provides an opportunity for Florida to begin collecting money from a compact of sellers that voluntarily collect the tax.  HB 101 would have expanded nexus over remote retailers, requiring more retailers to collect tax on sales to Floridians.  HB 1265 is a memorial urging Congress to support the Marketplace Fairness Act.  These bills have not yet been heard.

Elderly Release - HB 785 creates the Supervised Conditional Elderly Release Program for inmates 65 years of age or older who pose low risk to society. The bill allows specific elderly inmates to reduce their sentence by up to 50 percent if they meet certain criteria and receive a favorable determination from the Florida Commission on Offender Review. It also expands eligibility for Conditional Medical Release to include severely ill or disabled inmates that do not meet the current 180 day life expectancy requirement. 

Inmate ReentrySB 1384 would require the Department of Corrections to develop and administer a reentry program for nonviolent offenders, which is intended to divert nonviolent offenders from long periods of incarceration.  It also requires that assessments of vocational skills and future career education be provided to offenders.   HB 121 and SB 356 would create a $1,000 corporate income tax credit for hiring a person who has been convicted of a felony and who remains continuously employed by the corporation for at least 1 year. The credit may be taken only once per new employee and is not available for violent offenders or sexual offenders or predators. HB 591 would increase the amount of incentive gain-time awarded to an inmate for completing a high school equivalency diploma or vocational certificate from 60 to 120 days.

Mandatory Minimum SentencingHB 881 and SB 1092 would allow a judge to impose a sentence less than the mandatory minimum sentence if the unique circumstances of the case indicate that the offender does not pose a threat to the public and the mandatory minimum sentence does not fulfill the goal of punishment and other sentencing criteria.

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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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