BILLS THAT PASSED THE 2016 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
To date, Governor Rick Scott has signed sixty bills. To see a list of these bills go here. There are nine bills requiring action by the governor today, March 23rd. We have outlined, below, a few items of interest that passed and failed this year.
EDUCATION A whopper of an education bill passed in the final hours of session. HB 7029 included provisions from almost a dozen other bills. Some of them include: allowing students to attend any school in the state that is not at capacity; creating a new distribution formula for charter school capital funding that favors those that serve poor and disabled students and lets charters get access to capital funding after two years instead of three; codifying performance-funding metrics for state universities; changing eligibility rules for high school athletes and allowing private schools to join the Florida High School Athletic Association on a per-sport basis; permitting individual school board members to choose which membership association they want to join; and requiring school districts to provide instruction to homebound or hospitalized students.
TAX PACKAGE Governor Scott requested $1 billion in tax breaks and $400 million for an economic incentive fund in a highly publicized tour prior to the start of the session. The Senate initially gave him $250 million for his Florida Enterprise Fund to attract businesses to the State, but the House would not concur. The Legislature did set aside $129.1 million for a permanent tax exemption on manufacturing equipment, elimination of tax on asphalt, reduction in the aviation fuel tax rate, and a tax cut on pear cider. The popular back-to-school tax holiday returns, but will only last three days this year and does not include computers.
LEGACY FLORIDA A requirement that $200 million annually for the Everglades, $50 million for natural springs and $5 million for Lake Apopka be allocated from Amendment 1 funds (the land and water conservation amendment) has been approved by the Legislature.
AGRITOURISM Farmers who expanded their operations to include agritourism are further protected from local regulation that would limit their activities. Clarifying language in the bill ensures that operators can hold civic and ceremonial activities on their land as well.
UNCLAIMED PROPERTY A priority of CFO Jeff Atwater, insurers are now required to search the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File retroactively for all of their policyholders to 1992. If a beneficiary cannot be found, the insurance company must turn the policy over to the State of Florida’s Unclaimed Property Program. Life insurance companies have neglected to pay out billions of dollars in overdue, unpaid life insurance benefits.
GAS STATION SKIMMERS Consumers are better protected from criminals wanting to steal their credit and debit card information with devices fraudulently installed on gas pumps. Penalties for stealing fuel are increased as well.
TRANSPORTATION PACKAGE A comprehensive transportation package was approved on the last day of the legislative session. Among the many items included in the bill are: increasing seaport development funding by $25 million per year; modifying and streamlining the development of public-private partnerships; establishing a program to assist small businesses in securing FDOT contracts; and creating an FDOT financing corporation to issue debt to finance transportation projects.
In another wide-ranging transportation bill, lawmakers revised the requirements for bus deceleration lighting systems; changed the maximum lease term for aviation-related entities located on airport property to fifty years; modified the payment of bonds for certain projects; revised the definition of small county for the Small County Outreach Program; altered the Board makeup of the Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Authority; and enhanced penalties for trespassing on airport property; among others.
OUT-OF-NETWORK HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE As the last bill to pass this session, HB 221 primarily protects patients from unexpected charges by hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, specialty hospitals and urgent care centers. An amendment to include treatment for those with developmental disabilities was added in the last hours of session.