PENSION REFORM One of Speaker Will Weatherford’s top priorities was pension reform where Florida’s employees would default into 401(k) investment plans instead of the current defined benefit plan. The defined plan guarantees a benefit to its recipients, while the investment plan has the potential for greater returns, but no guarantee. For the second year in a row, the Senate killed the proposal when a majority could not be assembled on a critical amendment vote.
GAMING Gaming will not be expanded as the Legislature refused to act on proposals. This was largely due to Speaker Weatherford’s desire for either a constitutional amendment to go to the voters or for Governor Scott to renegotiate the card game portion of the Compact with the Seminole Tribe. There were rumblings of a special session to address the latter, but there is plenty of time to craft a new deal before the August 1, 2015 deadline to negotiate the Compact.
SPRINGS SB 1576 would have set parameters for sewage treatment and septic tanks in areas near polluted springs and would have set stricter limits to prevent over-pumping of groundwater. The bill never received enough support in the House and died in the final days of session.
CRAFT BEER Originally drafted to allow small, craft breweries to sell their beer in the popular 64 ounce size, SB 714 morphed into a bill that would require producers of more than 2,000 kegs per year to use an outside distributor for 80% of their beer distribution. The amendment by Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), backed by beer giant Anheuser Busch Inbev, did not sit well with small craft breweries and caused the bill to die in the House. Craft breweries can currently sell their beer in refillable 32 and 128 ounce containers.
RED LIGHT CAMERAS Despite strong support from Senate Transportation Chairman Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) and Representative Frank Artiles (R-Miami) to make changes to red light camera laws, the legislation did not gain traction and no changes were made this year to existing law.
CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING The House narrowly passed HB 7083 which would have required school districts and new charter schools to use standardized contracts, effectively stripping districts of their leverage in contract negotiations. The bill never made it to the Senate floor.
FILM INCENTIVES There will be no funding to lure film makers to Florida this year. Two bills were filed that would have provided $50 million annually until 2020 for tax credits to the film industry, but they did not pass nor was any funding appropriated in the budget. Advocates stated that for every $1 in credit, $5.60 is returned back and becomes part of the State’s economy.
STAND YOUR GROUND/WEAPONS Three gun laws were defeated this session: a “stand your ground” law that would have revised the current standards regarding use of deadly force and would have required local law enforcement agencies to issue guidelines regarding neighborhood watch programs; an open carry law that would have allowed people without a concealed weapons permit to carry a concealed weapon in the event of a state of emergency; and a bill that would have allowed school superintendents to designate employees who could carry concealed weapons on school premises.
UBER The transportation company Uber sought legislation which would grant exemptions to local rules governing vehicles for hire. Uber has been successful in entering the market in Jacksonville, but has failed to gain a foothold in other areas of the State due to opposition from traditional cab companies. After intense debate in several committee hearings throughout the session, the legislation was not voted upon in either chamber and died without action.
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY TAX REFERENDUM A bill backed by Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) would have allowed a voter-approved half-penny sales tax in Miami-Dade County to support building projects at Miami-Dade College and Florida International University.
TEXTING WHILE DRIVING The 2013 Legislature made texting while driving illegal as a secondary offense. Efforts to add teeth to the law, including raising the fine and changing it to a primary offense, were unsuccessful.