INTERNET CAFES – Shortly after the passage of legislation prohibiting interest cafes and senior arcades in Florida, two Broward County businesses filed suit in circuit court seeking an injunction against enforcement of the new law against arcades. They questioned the constitutionality of such a law on the grounds that it prohibited the first amendment rights of seniors. The case was remanded to federal court where a judge recently denied the motion.
FORECLOSURE SETTLEMENT SPENDING – The Governor signed legislation which would distribute the remaining $200 million in settlement funds from national banks as part of $25 billion the banks paid because of suspicious foreclosure practices. Most of the funding will go to affordable housing programs, housing for the homeless, legal aid for injured homeowners and to help the courts deal with the backlog of foreclosure cases. While it was hoped the funds would be in addition to annual expenditures, the Legislature swept $200 million in funding from the affordable housing trust fund, apparently going against a promise by legislative leaders that a “bait and switch” of funding would not occur.
UNIVERSITY TUITION INCREASE – While the Legislature approved a 3% increase for university tuition, the Governor vetoed it. However, the Board of Trustees governing the University of Florida and Florida State University, respectively, voted to move forward with a 1.7% increase in tuition which is tied to inflation. The increase will mean an additional $1.4 million to UF and $1.3 million to FSU.
CITIZENS PROPERTY INSURANCE POLICY TRANSFERS – $52 million worth of insurance policy business is being transferred to a nine month old insurance company. The money is being paid to entice the company to accept up to 60,000 policies, along with the risk associated with them. The company will be allowed to choose which policies it will accept. The decision was made with only a week’s notice and it was revealed that the company had contributed large amounts to the Governor’s campaign and the Republican Party of Florida.
UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS – Prior to the 2008 economic downturn, Florida maintained a $2 billion surplus in its unemployment benefit fund. Since that time, the State has had to borrow $3.5 billion from the federal government to pay benefits. In May, Florida repaid the loan, along with $100 million in interest. In a related matter, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which oversees unemployment benefits, has accused the U.S. Department of Labor of politicizing the Department’s study of Florida’s system. The Labor Department issued a report which alleges the state is discriminatory with its current system because of regulations passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor.
DUAL ENROLLMENT – The popular high school program allowing students to take and earn credit for college level classes will be experiencing a change for the 2013-2014 school year. Costs of such programs will be transferred from the state colleges to county school districts. With most counties experiencing deficits and struggling to balance budgets, it is unclear how the new law will affect the program.