By Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers next week will start the annual 60-day legislative session. Here are 10 big issues to watch:
— AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, has made a priority of trying to find ways to make housing more affordable for workers. The Senate could quickly pass a wide-ranging bill that includes providing incentives for investments in affordable housing and encouraging mixed-use developments in struggling commercial areas.
— BUDGET: Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed a $114.8 billion budget for the fiscal year that will start July 1. Among other things, the proposal includes money for increasing teacher salaries, $1.1 billion for Everglades restoration and water-quality issues, 5 percent across-the-board pay hikes for state workers and additional money for targeted jobs such as correctional officers.
— DEATH PENALTY: After Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was sentenced to life in prison, lawmakers could scrap a requirement that unanimous jury recommendations are needed before death sentences can be imposed. House and Senate bills would allow death sentences based on the recommendations of eight of 12 jurors and also give judges more authority.
— DEFAMATION: Lawmakers will consider revamping the state’s defamation laws, potentially weakening protections for journalists. DeSantis, who frequently criticizes the media, and House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, have called for revisiting the 1964 U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as New York Times v. Sullivan, which helps shield reporters from lawsuits.
— GUNS: Republican lawmakers have started moving forward with a proposal to allow people to carry concealed weapons without obtaining state licenses, an idea that supporters call “constitutional carry.” The proposal has drawn opposition from gun-control groups — and from some gun-rights groups, who say the state should allow people to openly carry guns.
— IMMIGRATION: Continuing to criticize federal border and immigration policies, DeSantis wants lawmakers to pass a series of proposals involving undocumented immigrants. Among other things, he wants to expand the use of the E-Verify system, which is used to verify the employment status of workers, and bar out-of-state tuition waivers for undocumented students.
— LAWSUIT LIMITS: With Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate, lawmakers could pass far-reaching changes to help shield businesses and insurance companies from costly lawsuits. The proposals, which target issues such as attorney fees, have touched off a lobbying fight, with critics arguing they would harm the ability of injured people to go to court.
— SCHOOL BOARDS: DeSantis has taken the unusual step of getting involved in school-board races to elect conservative candidates. Now, Republican lawmakers want to amend the state Constitution to change school-board races from non-partisan to partisan. Also, lawmakers are considering eight-year term limits for school-board members, down from the current 12 years.
— SCHOOL VOUCHERS: After two decades of gradually expanding school vouchers, lawmakers this spring could make every Florida student eligible for taxpayer-funded vouchers that could be used for private-school tuition and other expenses. The proposal would nix income requirements for vouchers and also make vouchers available to home-schooled students.
— TAXES: With the state flush with cash, DeSantis has proposed a series of tax breaks that include tax “holidays” and permanently eliminating sales taxes on such things as cribs, strollers, clothes, shoes and diapers for infants and toddlers. Among other things, DeSantis proposed two school-related tax holidays on clothes, school supplies and electronics.
Sounds like Killearn Acres.
I remember this area back in the ‘80s-‘90s when it was kept up, because it was largely populated by homesteaders.
But many have moved up and out, leaving a neighborhood of renters. And with it, a run-down community with property values that haven’t appreciated as they could have.
Pivoting, everyone remember the Save Our Homes legislation, where property tax annual increases were capped at 3% for homesteaders and 10% for investment properties? Well, the COT is getting around those caps because the 3 lines of school board taxes are exempt from SOH law! My investment-grade property taxes went up 14% last year, in spite of the 10% cap SOH mandate. Because in Tallahassee, there’s never enough of YOUR money for the screwel board to Hoover up.
I urge you to contact your state legislators and demand they fix this carve out for the screwels, and close this loophole so that SOH can not be adulterated.
I live in a neighborhood that was a white working class area until the 1980’s. The Feds put in “the projects” and the area changed. White flight left an area full of black crime.
Now, it is a high crime area where I hear gunshots on a regular basis. I hear car tires squealing, gunshots the tires. Drive bys. We have theft, trespassing, prostitution, and an insane amount of litter. Screaming, shouting, and foul language are Dailey occurrences.
This segment of population already carries guns. As do I on in my own yard.
Constitutional carry will protect me if, a situation I fear, I have to protect myself against Matlow’s children.
@David — You’re correct. I’m thinking that expanding the voucher program would put the private/charter school education within reach of many more kids. That would be outstanding!
@ A Skeptic = Actually the Charter Schools are some what funded by the Local Governments, by way of the Voucher Program. Also, I am pretty sure that some of their Teachers had come from the Public School System if not all of them.
I’m all in on the school voucher idea. Imagine the changes, and improvements, to education if the government sponsored system is rendered obsolete. Massive changes would have to occur where kids were actually taught by qualified teachers who were responsible for their own jobs.
On the plus side, this could also neuter the teachers’ unions and their funneling of money to the Democrats!
AFFORDABLE HOUSING: Make it where a 75% to Full House Remodel can be set up like a New Construction Loan. We have many Houses in Tallahassee that need a major over haul that are priced under $50K. Add another $30K to 40K in Rehabbing and the House can be worth over $100K. My Parents did a New Construction Loan where one Loan was done for the Property and then a separate Loan was done for the Construction and when finished, the two Loans were brought together into one Loan.
DEATH PENALTY: Yes, I am OK with that, especially if there is no doubt that the person DID kill some one.
DEFAMATION: YES, make it easier to Sue the Media (without a Cap on the amount), if you can prove they Lied about you.
GUNS: Personally, I would prefer that the Person carrying the Gun has a Carry Permit, at least that way, we know that they did have some training. What we need is MORE Pistol Ranges so Gun Owners can practice hitting the Target. I suggest that one gets built at the Apalachee Regional Park.
SCHOOL BOARDS: Yes, on Term Limits, and make ALL Elected Races Partisan and Term Limits.
SCHOOL VOUCHERS: Instead of expanding the Voucher Program, cut back on it and use the Money on FREE Breakfast & Lunches for the Students. Create a ZERO Tolerance for Bullying.
TAXES: I would like to see an ending to Property Taxes on people that are 67 Years of Age and Older on their Homesteaded Home no matter their Income Level.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING…A.K.A. How to Bring Crime to Your Neighborhood.
DEATH PENALTY…better yet, streamline to process like Texas has. Average time on Death Row in Texas: 11.22 years. Average time on Death Row in Florida: 27.4 years.
GUNS…before you start driving around, without a CCW, you better know the law, especially Federal Law.
TAXES…none of his holidays benefit me. Why not just cut property taxes, school taxes, fuel taxes and sales taxes.