Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida
2020 Florida Legislative Session Wrap-Up
The Florida Legislature convened for less than two hours Thursday, March 19 to unanimously adopt a $93.2 billion fiscal year 2021 budget. The budget bills were adopted in the House in 104-0 votes, and in the Senate 20 minutes later in 32-0 tallies. The $93.2 billion budget was an increase of $2.4 billion from last year’s budget.
The budget earmarks $300 million for reserves to address the COVID-19 outbreak. The budget also includes $25.5 million requested by Gov. Ron DeSantis from this year’s budget and $27.3 million in federal assistance to combat the coronavirus.
State economists will be monitoring tax revenues over the next few months, the coronavirus has already shut down the state’s tourism-dependent economy and could cost the state billions in sales tax revenue. There is talk that the legislators will be called back for a special session to overhaul the budget this summer.
Because of the Legislature funding Corona Virus relief funding, the original tax cut package proposed was reduced. The final tax cuts passed by lawmakers in HB 7097 added up to $47.7 million in one-time sales tax holidays, down from the $235 million in annual tax cuts approved previously.
The final package eliminated several provisions intended to help certain industries including a one-time $2 million tax credit for rental car companies, a reduction in the commercial lease tax, an exemption for heavy equipment rentals, an exemption from sales taxes for admissions to Formula 1 Grand Prix events, a 10-year extension of monthly distributions for the World Golf Hall of Fame and a tax break for solar installations for Florida Power & Light.
Also removed was a $76 million annual reduction in the state communication services tax (supported by RLCFL) that would save anyone who purchases a mobile phone, video or satellite service 0.5% on every dollar of taxes and a reduction in business leases.
The tax package includes the $42 million three-day back-to-school sales tax holiday Aug. 7 through Aug. 9 and the $5.6 million seven-day disaster preparedness sales tax holiday from May 29, 2020, through June 4, 2020.
RLCFL Supported Bills That Passed
SB 410/HB 203 Growth Management: All counties and municipalities in Florida must adopt local government comprehensive plans that guide future growth and development. Comprehensive plans contain chapters or “elements” that address topics to be coordinated. Absent from the list of mandated elements is an element protecting property rights. HB 203 would require all counties and municipalities to adopt a property rights element in their Comprehensive Plan.
SB 474/HB 1193 Occupational Licensing: Deregulates certain occupational licensing requirements.
SB 404/HB 265 Parental Consent for Abortion
HB 7067 K-12 Scholarship Programs: Quadruples the rate at which the number of scholarship vouchers that allow parents of eligible students to register and attend private schools, would grow each year, starting with 28,000 more scholarships in the first year, as part of Florida’s Family Empowerment Scholarship. That program was created last year with a cap of 18,000 vouchers. It also adjusts the income criteria to make it available to more middle-income families, if there are vouchers left over after the lowest income families are served.
RLCFL Supported Bills that Failed
HB 6003 Firearms: This bill would repeal gun control measures in SB 7026 that passed in 2018 after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. HB 6003 repeals the red flag provisions, the three-day waiting period for gun purchases, the increase in the minimum age to 21 for the purchase of rifles and the ban on bump-fire stock devices.
HB 6001 Licenses to Carry Concealed Weapons and Firearms (Campus Carry)
HB 273 Carrying of Firearms (Constitutional Carry)
HB 1437 Safety of Religious Institutions: This bill would have authorized church, synagogue, or other religious institutions to allow concealed weapons or concealed firearms licensee to carry a firearm on its property.
HB 6083 Traffic Infraction Detectors: (Red Light Camera Repeal)
HB 6057 Sports Development Program: This legislation repeals s. 288.11625, F.S., the Sports Development program. In 2014, the Legislature created the Sports Development program that authorizes distributions of state sales and use tax revenue to fund professional sports franchise facilities, up to $13 million. The state of Florida already budgets $2 million every year to eight major sports franchises like the Miami Dolphins.
HB 1369 Sports Franchises and Facilities: This bill deletes provisions authorizing counties to impose specified taxes to pay debt service on bonds related to sports facilities.
SB 516 Campaign Financing: This bill would prohibit transfers or contributions between PCs, ECOs, political parties, and affiliated party committees.
SB 482/HB 583 Beverage Law: This bill allows craft distilleries to increase the yearly maximum production threshold from 75,000 gallons to 250,000 and stay “craft.” It removes the limitations on the number of bottles per brand per consumer that may be sold in a year and permits distilleries to get a vendor’s license to sell alcohol on-site. This bill also allows distillers to ship to out-of-state customers and would allow restaurant patrons to take home a partially consumed bottle of wine without having to eat a complete meal, including a salad or vegetable, entree, beverage and bread. This would be closer to a free market system, limits on production should be determined by the market.
HJR 157/SJR 1216: Limitation on Terms of Office for Members of a District School Board (School Board Term Limits.)
SJR 142/HJR 301 Abolishing the Constitution Revision Commission: These bills would have placed a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution on the 2020 general election ballot. If passed by at least 60% of voters, this amendment would abolish the Constitution Revision Commission. The Constitution Revision Commission meets every 20 years to propose changes to the Florida Constitution and has become no more than politically charged unnecessary waste of taxpayer dollars.
SB 1128/HB 1011 Vacation Rentals: These bills would have preempted the regulation of vacation rentals to the state and protects from local regulation rentals offered via an “advertising platform,” which offers software and online access to listings for “transient public lodging establishment[s]” in the state. Just as public lodging (hotels and motels) and food service establishments are regulated by the state, so too would Airbnb, VRBO, and the like. SB 1128 states that “property owners who choose to use their property as a vacation rental have constitutionally protected property rights and other rights that must be protected, including the right to use their residential property as a vacation rental”. This bill would still allow Local governments to make rules that apply to vacation rentals if they apply uniformly to all residences – things like noise and parking regulations.
SB 470/HB Searches of Cellular Phones and Other Electronic Devices: These bills would have required that collection by law enforcement of an individual’s location, a cell phone, or a home enabled device, without the consent of the person or owner of the devices, should be allowed only when authorized by a warrant, which carries a higher standard of having probable cause than a court order. Advancing technology has presented law enforcement with new means of investigation and surveillance, and the courts with new questions about the Fourth Amendment implications of this technology. These technologies such as “Stingray” also known as “cell site simulators” or “IMSI catchers,” are invasive cell phone surveillance devices that mimic cell phone towers. Current law only requires a court order and not a warrant for law enforcement to use these types of surveillance.
SB 1336/HB 3 Preemption of Local Occupational Licensing: These bills would have prohibited local governments from imposing their own occupational and professional licensing requirements. State oversight would standardize occupational regulation and is fairer because many business owners don’t live in the city or county where their business is, meaning they can’t vote on matters that affect them. Contractors cross county and city borders every day and can face a patchwork of multiple occupational regulations depending on which County they are working in that day.
HB 339/SB 346 Drug Trafficking Offenses: A defendant charged with drug possession can receive a mandatory minimum sentence if the amount of drugs in the defendant’s possession meets a certain threshold. Florida’s current system of mandatory minimum sentencing means that our court system has no discretion over how someone convicted of a drug crime is sentenced. These mandatory minimums treat an addict the same as a major drug dealer. Many times, a person is simply an addict with no intention of trafficking drugs. They spend a lengthy time in prison and are exposed to a criminal element, making it very difficult to become productive members of society after release.
RLCFL Opposed Bills That Passed
SB 362/HB 213 Visit Florida: State funding for Visit Florida is currently set to sunset next year. These bills would extend that deadline for more than eight years to October 1, 2028. The Senate and House agreed on a three extension and funded Visit Florida $50 million. The House budget did not fund Visit Florida The Senate budget requested $50 million as did the Governor’s budget proposal.
RLCFL Opposed Bills That Failed
SB 7028 Public Safety: Increased Background Checks and Expanded Red Flag Law
HB 311/SB 728 Threats
HB 183/SB 1524 Prohibited Places for Weapons and Firearms: These bills would have permitted elected officials to carry concealed weapons in public meetings over which they preside, such as city council and county commission meetings. The RLCFL opposed this bill because the Legislature should not give special privileges to elected officials while denying citizens the same right to conceal carry in a public meeting.
HB 201/SB 652 Urban Gun Violence Task Force
SB 126/HB 159 Sales and use Tax: Internet Sales Tax bill
SB 530/HB 497 Entertainment Industry: Film Subsidy Bill
SB 332/HB 497 Land Acquisition Fund: These bills would have funded Florida Forever a minimum of $100 million per year to purchase conservation land. (Note: The Legislature did agree to fund Florida Forever $100 million for the 2020-21 budget. The House budget proposal only funded Florida Forever $20 million, the Senate requested $125 million and the Governor had requested $100 million.)