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Legislative Corner

Florida Legislature – 2013 session overview

by Joanna Bonfanti on May 17, 2013

The 2013 legislative session came to a close at 7:16 p.m. on Friday, May 3.

Overall, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford worked well together and the session went along fairly smoothly, minus a few bumps in the road here and there as is typical during the final week.

This year’s session focused on ethics and election reforms, Florida’s gaming laws, Medicaid, and the elimination of sales tax on manufacturing equipment for three years. Teachers and state workers received their first pay raises in the state budget in several years, the insurance industry managed to hold on to a decades-old tax break, Internet cafes were banned, and a texting-while-driving ban passed after many years of unsuccessful attempts to pass similar language. Lawmakers agreed to a $74.5 billion budget, which is now before Governor Rick Scott for his review. Legislative leaders and Gov. Scott were unable to come to an agreement on expanding Medicaid for 1 million Floridians as well as a stadium deal utilizing taxpayer dollars for the Miami Dolphins. Democratic leaders are calling for a special session to address Medicaid expansion, but it remains to be seen whether such a special session will be called.

Over 1,800 bills were filed for consideration by the Legislature this year. Of those 1,800, only 259 actually passed both the Senate and House.  And of those 259 bills that passed, below are some highlight.

Senate bills passed:

Mortgage Foreclosures (SB 1852): sets out the spending from the National Mortgage Foreclosure settlement.

Insurance (SB 1770): sets up a clearinghouse to push Citizens Property Insurance policies into other private companies, adds restrictions to some Citizens coverage, and assigns Citizens an Inspector General.

Energy (SB 1472): places review benchmarks for power companies that want to collect money from customers in advance of building nuclear power plants.

Alimony Reform (SB 718): reforms the state’s alimony laws, including the concept of permanent alimony. VETOED by Gov. Scott

Sales Tax Holiday (SB 406): sets the three-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping in August.

Homestead Property and Rental Issues (SB 342): allows a person with homestead exemption to rent out their property for 30 days without losing their homestead exemption.

Texting While Driving (SB 52): bans texting while driving except when stopped.

Ethics (SB 2): changes state ethics laws by banning elected officials from taking advantage of their positions to get taxpayer-funded jobs and prevents legislators from lobbying state agencies for two years after they leave office.  SIGNED INTO LAW 

House bills passed:

Expert Testimony (HB 7015): tightens the standards for expert witnesses in lawsuits, adopting the same standards used in federal courts in deciding whether expert testimony should be admitted.

Taxes (HB 7007): eliminates the sales tax on manufacturing equipment for three years. SIGNED INTO LAW

Cancer Drugs (HB 1159): requires insurers who offer IV cancer drugs to also cover oral cancer medications.

Miami Children’s Hospital (HB 1159): allows Miami Children’s Hospital to have 10 obstetrics beds.

Nursing Home Beds (HB 1159): creates an expedited process for new nursing home bed in certain places, like The Villages in central Florida.

Environmental Permitting (HB 999): a wide-ranging permitting bill.

Sick Leave Preemption (HB 655): keeps local governments from setting their own policies on earned sick leave and other forms of compensation.

Wine (HB 623): allows the sale of wine in 5.16 gallon canisters that can be tapped like a keg.

Florida Election Code (HB 569): changes the campaign-finance system by eliminating committees of continuous existence (CCEs) and increases the limits on individual contributions to candidates.  SIGNED INTO LAW

Dyed Diesel Fuel (HB 423): creates a sales tax break on dyed diesel fuel used by commercial fishermen, shrimpers, oystermen and clammers.

Gaming (HB 155): outlaws the types of electronic games used in Internet cafes. SIGNED INTO LAW

Charitable Contributions (HB 95): prevents charities from surrendering monies received from a Ponzi schemer if the charity took the money in good faith.

Mortgage Foreclosures (HB 87): supposed to speed up the foreclosure process.

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If you would like additional information on these or any other bills, please do not hesitate to contact Joanna Bonfanti.

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