Foreclosures – Florida has the highest foreclosure rate in the country and is home to seven of the top ten U.S. metropolitan areas for foreclosures. Attorney General Pam Bondi and lawmakers will be renewing their focus on Florida’s foreclosure problem through legislation proposed by Representative Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) which speeds up the state’s home-repossession process. Currently, there are over 300,000 homes in foreclosure in Florida.
Gaming – The presiding officers have agreed that the Legislature should take a comprehensive two-year look at how gambling is regulated in Florida. Included in this review will be everything from pari-mutual facilities to internet cafes and casinos. They will also review the state’s five-year, $1 billion compact with the Seminole Tribe which allows the tribe to run casinos with blackjack and other games.
Gun control – In 2005, Florida was the first of nearly two dozen states to pass a “Stand Your Ground Law,” allowing people who fear for their lives to use deadly force. The death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager shot to death last year in Sanford, brought Florida into the national spotlight and resulted in several bills being filed to repeal or substantially change this law. However, a task force created by Governor Rick Scott recently recommended no sweeping changes.
National Health Care – The Senate and House of Representatives’ Select Committees on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will focus on the implementation of the federal health care law. Both the Senate and the House created these new committees to make recommendations regarding PPACA’s impact on Florida. A key decision left to the states by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling concerned the expansion of Medicaid eligibility. Governor Scott recently signaled a change in his position when he announced support of expansion during this three year period. Speaker Weatherford urged caution and President Gaetz has left the decision to the select committee. Recommendations from the committees will be forthcoming next week. Another issue will be how to set up the required insurance exchange, which will be an on-line health insurance marketplace where Floridians and small businesses can shop virtually for health insurance.
Transportation – Florida’s reliance on fuel taxes to pay for transportation is becoming increasingly more unsustainable as cars become more fuel efficient. Current funding alternatives include tolls to expand federal and state highways and encouraging private companies to help finance and maintain roads. Back again this year are bills to repeal local governments’ authority to use red light cameras and bills to ban texting while driving. Florida is one of only eleven states that currently does not prohibit texting while driving.