Legislators were in Tallahassee the last week of September and the second in October for their initial interim committee weeks in preparation for the 2014 Legislative Session. These first meetings included presentations by staff and others as follow-ups to previous legislative actions and to provide previews of upcoming issues. Outlined below are some highlights from these meetings.
GAMING. Last session, legislators authorized a study to project the impacts of expansion of gaming within the State. Both the Senate and the House authorized an extension for receipt of a final report, but did hear some of the authors’ conclusions during the committee meetings. The report looks at various scenarios, but generally concludes that expansion would have a minimal economic impact to the State. The reasoning is that over 90% of gamblers would be Floridians, which would merely transfer disposable income from one sector to another. While new jobs would be created, they would likely be at lower salary levels.
ALL ABOARD FLORIDA TRAIN. The high speed train, with service between Orlando and Miami, would begin in late 2015. The train will stop in Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in just under three hours. Ticket cost is estimated to be approximately $100 per person. Reaching speeds of up to 125 miles per hour, the All Aboard Florida train will be the first passenger service along the Florida East Coast Railway since 1968.
CITIZENS PROPERTY INSURANCE. Hearings were held regarding Florida’s “last resort” insurer of property. Among the issues were whether to continue to offer policies to out-of-state property owners, the financial solvency of Citizens and the proposed increase in the federal flood insurance program.
CAMPAIGN LAW CHANGES. Under a revision to campaign-finance law (HB 569) Committees of Continuous Existence were eliminated on September 30th. House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) made a priority of eliminating the so-called CCEs, which were criticized in part for being hard to track. Additionally, the measure increased campaign contribution limits from $500 to $3,000 for candidates running for statewide office and from $500 to $1,000 for candidates for running for legislative office
DUAL ENROLLMENT. State colleges made presentations regarding the funding changes for the dual enrollment program, which allows high school students to participate in college courses at no cost. Last year, the Legislature changed the funding mechanism from the colleges to the school districts, which appears to have reduced the number of dual enrollment participants.