Heading into the final week of the scheduled 60-day legislative session, it appeared the House and Senate had resolved enough of their biggest budgetary hurdles to finish on time. After working through the weekend, lawmakers resolved several of their most contentious issues and appeared headed towards a consensus. In order to meet the deadline, the two sides would need to have a budget deal in place by late Tuesday, May 2, to avoid an overtime session.
However, on Tuesday it was announced by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron they were unable to reach an agreement and would need additional time to finish their work. The plan at the time was to extend session an additional three days to allow for the 72-hour waiting period to lapse over the weekend and pass the budget on Monday. As the clock began to count down on Friday afternoon, it looked as if the budget may not make it to the member’s desks on time. However, it was finally announced at 2:43 p.m., the remaining unresolved issues had been reconciled and budgets were available for final passage.
While the budgetary process would need additional time for completion, it was also announced last week that the joint gaming conference committee was unable to reach a compromise before the conclusion of session. The proposed deal would have allowed at least one new casino in Miami and authorized craps and roulette at Seminole casinos. However, the sticking point for the two sides came down to allowing slot machines in eight more counties. Therefore, a new deal with the Seminole Tribe could not be reached and will now have to wait another year.
Week 10 (Overtime) - The Week Ahead
The House and Senate will return today at 1:00 p.m. to vote on the state-spending plan by passing SB 2500 and associated bills. The two sides were able to come to an agreement late last week, and the budget has completed its constitutionally mandated “cooling off” period through the weekend. This period of time is designed to allow the public an opportunity to review the budget before final passage.
Once the general appropriations act, implementing and conforming budget bills have been passed by the Legislature, they will go to the Governor where he can veto line-items or the entire budget. The Governor will have 15 days to take action on the proposed budget.
Week 9 Activity - 2017 Legislative Priorities and Positions
VISIT FLORIDA Funding
The House and Senate agreed to allocate $25 million in their budget to go towards Visit Florida funding. This marks a significant decrease from current funding. Additionally, there was an amendment adopted during the budget conference meetings last Friday to HB 5501, a budget implementing bill, that would make several changes to the administration of funds, including establishing that contracts in excess of $750,000 are subject to notice and review by the Legislative Budget Commission, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House. Additionally, the President/CEO may not make a salary greater than the Governor and must now be confirmed by the Senate.
Protection of Tourism Development Taxes
SB 68 – by Sen. Denise Grimsley - Relating to Tourist Development Tax
This bill made it to its fourth and final committee of reference in the full Senate Appropriations Committee but was never placed on the agenda.
Stop the Expansion of Gaming in Florida
SB 8 – by Sen. Bill Galvano (OPPOSE) Relating to Gaming
SB 8 renews portions of the Seminole Compact; de-couples racing facilities and allows for significant expansion of gaming in Florida. The bill was withdrawn for further consideration.
HB 7037 – by Rep. Mike LaRosa - Relating to Gaming
HB 7037 renews portions of the Seminole Compact, does not de-couple racing facilities and prohibits expansion of gaming in Florida. On April 5, the House debated SB 8, amended the language of HB 7037 onto SB 8, passed it 73-40 and returned it to the Senate. The Senate refused to concur on the House gaming proposal which began the need for both sides to conference. After three conference committee meetings where the two sides offered several compromises, it was decided on May 2 that a consensus could not be reached. The main sticking point was whether to allow slots at pari-mutuels in counties where voters have approved them, even without the express permission of the Legislature.
HB 7047 – by Rep. Halsey Beshears – Relating to Deregulation of Professions and Occupations
The bill was written by the House Commerce Committee in an effort to remove regulations on several professions. When the bill was heard by the Senate, it was amended by Senator Dana Young to include language that would permit fantasy sports as well as authorize certain veterans’ organizations to conduct bingo games. The House refused to concur with the amended version of the bill which subsequently died.
Ensure Private Property Rights are Protected
SB 646 - by Sen. Greg Steube - Relating to Concealed Weapons or Firearms
This bill provided that a person who has a conceal carry permit and who is lawfully carrying a firearm does not violate certain provisions if the firearm is temporarily and openly displayed. The Senate Judiciary temporarily postponed this bill in a previous committee and was not placed back on the agenda.
SB 616 – by Sen. Greg Steube – Relating to Concealed Weapons or Firearms
The bill would allow a conceal carry permit holder to carry a concealed weapon or firearm into a courthouse for as long as it takes him or her to report to courthouse security or management. The bill was passed by the Senate by a vote of 19-15 but was indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration by the House.
HB 779 by Rep. Neil Combee - Relating to Weapons and Firearms
The House passed HB 779 on April 4 by a vote of 80-34, but the Senate companion was unsuccessful in its passing. This bill reduced penalties applicable to a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon or firearm and also provides that a person licensed to carry concealed weapon or firearm does not violate certain provisions if firearm is temporarily and openly displayed. No controversial gun rights bills passed this session.
Tax Cuts for Commercial Leases
HB 7109 - by Ways and Means - Related to Taxation
This bill is the House's omnibus tax package and included, among other provisions, a reduction in the commercial rent tax to 5.8 percent. The bill passed the full House and was heard on the Senate floor on Friday but was not adopted. However, it is included on the agenda today for final consideration during budget deliberations.
SB 378 – Sen. Kelli Stargel - Related to Taxation
The Senate version of the bill would permanently reduce the commercial rent tax from 6 percent to 5 percent. It would also clarify the tax rate is effective the day the licensee occupies the property and cannot be avoided by delaying rental until after the effective date of the rate change. The bill died in committee.
Expansion of Florida State Park Discount Programs
SB 64 – by Sen. Aaron Bean and HB 185 by Rep. Larry Lee (SUPPORT) Relating to State Park Fees
SB 64/HB 185 provides for free annual state park entrance passes and a 50 percent discount on state park base campsite fees to foster families. It also provides for a one-time free annual state park entrance pass for families with adopted children who have special needs. The bill passed last week on the Senate floor, was ordered enrolled and will now head to the Governor for his final approval.
Protect Florida's Archaeological Treasures
SB 214 – by Sen. Greg Steube (SUPPORT) Relating to Division of Historical Resources
HB 6019 – by Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (SUPPORT) Relating to Division of Historical Resources
No legislative action occurred/
Preserve Responsible Display of Captive Wildlife
No 2017 legislation filed.
Other Bills of Interest
SB 388 by Sen. Travis Hutson and HB 423 by Rep. Mike LaRosa - Relating to Beverage Law
Allowed beer companies to advertise, including sponsoring attractions and events, in theme parks. “Theme park” is defined as at least 25 contiguous acres which contains permanent exhibitions and variety of recreational activities and has a minimum of 1 million visitors annually. Different versions of the bill were passed by the House and Senate, however, due to the differences they were unable to pass the legislation.