New Sports Stadium Tax Credits
With Major League Soccer awarding franchises to Orlando and Miami, both cities will be looking to secure state incentives. Backers of the teams are seeking $2 million in annual rebates. The 20-year program would provide funding for construction, operations, and maintenance. Speaker Weatherford announced that he was not in favor of such a move this year, maintaining his opposition from the 2013 session.
Florida University Pay for Performance Funding
An $80 million proposal to develop a performance plan for universities would create a system to grade universities through seven benchmarks. Should the schools not score well on the measures, they would lose some of their base funding.
Florida Collegiate High School Initiative
Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg (R-Lutz) filed a bill which would expand the development of Florida collegiate high schools. His bill would provide for a one-year program where public school students would earn industry certifications in their senior year and complete the first year of college. The program would count towards the awarding of an AA or BA degree.
Red Light Cameras
The House annual transportation legislative package includes a controversial proposal which would halt the expansion of red light cameras by municipalities and counties. Other bills include efforts to reduce the amount of the fine for red light violations ticketed through cameras. Both the President and Speaker have spoken in favor of stopping the proliferation of cameras or even repealing the existing authorization statute.
Term Limit Amendment
Representative Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) filed a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 613) onJanuary 15th that would change the current term limits for the Florida Legislature. Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring) has filed a similar measure in the Senate. The amendment would allow state senators and representatives to serve 12 consecutive years, up from the current 8-year limit. It would also extend the current four-year term for the Senate to six-year terms and extend the House’s two-year term to four.
Senate Gaming Committee Chairman Garrett Richter (R-Naples) recently unveiled legislation rewriting Florida’s gaming regulations. Among the items contained within the bill are: destination casinos in both Miami-Dade and Broward Counties; creation of a five person Gaming Control Board; a reduction in the number of dog races conducted at Florida’s thirteen greyhound racing facilities; a constitutional amendment requiring voter approval prior to any additional expansion. This measure would complicate the current process as the Seminole Tribe currently pays the State $230 million annually for the exclusive right to offer blackjack and other card games. The Speaker has indicated the House would likely consider the idea provided (1) it contains the constitutional amendment provision, and (2) that Governor Scott conclude negotiations with the Seminole Indian tribe prior to the end of the year.
The House is on the fast track with an Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee bill that would prohibit cities and counties from charging impact fees on new business developments of 6,000 square feet or less. This is similar to the legislation the House passed last year which eventually died in the Senate. There is currently no Senate companion bill.
Two of Florida’s largest utilities have collected $1.5 billion from customers under a law which allows utilities to charge users for nuclear power projects regardless of whether they are ever built. Reports indicated that repairs to the Crystal River plant were botched and that users would be on the hook for an additional $3 billion even though the utility has announced the closing of the Crystal River plant. Bills have been introduced which would repeal this ability, but Speaker Weatherford has indicated he is not in favor of a full repeal.
Warning Shot Legislation
A measure in the House has cleared its committees and is ready for a floor vote that would allow the showing of a gun or the firing of warning shots when a person feels threatened. This is in response to the Jacksonville woman who is appealing a 20 year prison sentence she received for firing into the ceiling after feeling threatened by her estranged husband. An identical bill in the Senate is also moving its way through the committee process.