Bills linger as end of session approaches

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Legislative session in Tallahassee comes to a close May 3, and bills in the House and Senate are learning their fate. Here are a few notable bills the Weekly has tracked along the way and where they stand.

SB 720 & HB 525 — FLORIDA KEYS COMMUNITY COLLEGE

A bill to rename Florida Keys Community College to The College of the Florida Keys is set for a vote in the Senate before session ends. Legislation in the House, sponsored by state Rep. Holly Raschein, passed unanimously in late March. Legislation in the Senate, sponsored by state Sen. Anitere Flores, passed unanimously through the Education and Appropriations committees.

HB 1229 — CRAFT DISTILLERIES

Legislation to even the playing field for craft distilleries won’t get passed this session. The bill would have allowed distilleries to hold multiple vendor licenses for the sale of alcoholic beverages. They would also be able to obtain permits to conduct tastings and sales of distilled spirits at specified events.

SB 1694 & HB 1019 — TAKINGS CLAIMS

Legislation in the House and Senate that would provide for apportionment of awards of damages for takings claims within areas of critical state concern appears dead. Local governments in the Florida Keys, per the bill, would share liability 50-50 when defendants are successful in property rights litigation. Legislation in the Senate, sponsored by Flores, last saw movement April 9 when it passed through the Community Affairs Committee. In the House, the bill sponsored by state Rep. Thad Altman hasn’t seen any forward movement.

SB 1666 & HB 1221 — VESSELS

The bill that would direct Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to conduct a study on derelict vessels was postponed on third reading in the House on April 30. Similar legislation in the Senate passed 40-0. Flores and Raschein are bill co-sponsors in the Senate and House.

SB 816 & HB 771 — RECYCLING

Legislation passed through both the House and Senate requiring counties and municipalities to address contamination of recyclable material in specified contracts and prohibit them from requiring collection or transport of contaminated recyclable material by collectors. The bill in the House passed via an 87-23 vote while the Senate gave its approval via a 24-15 vote.

SB 824 & HB 987 — VACATION RENTALS

Bills that would preempt the regulation of all vacation rentals to the state likely won’t see passage this year. Legislation would have repealed the exemption for a local law, ordinance or regulation adopted before June 1, 2011. The state first passed vacation rental law in 2011, but Keys municipalities were “grandfathered,” or exempt from the new regulation. The 2019 bill would have removed that grandfather status and opened the Keys to vacation rentals with no limits on frequency or duration.

SB 336 & HB 5 — SALES TAX REFERENDA

Legislation gained passage in the House on April 11 with a 69-44 vote. A similar bill in the Senate was placed on the calendar for consideration for May 2. Legislation would require any local sales tax referendum question to appear only during major elections, and would require a two-thirds majority to pass. It would also force a county to make the proposed referendum and a specified legal opinion available on its website. Local governments often pass a discretionary sales tax to pay for necessary projects such as neighborhood construction or sewer projects.

 

THE BUDGET

On Tuesday evening, the Florida legislature agreed to a budget of more than $90 billion for the new fiscal year starting July 1. Final votes still need to be cast on the spending plan, but that can’t be done until a 72-hour review period. The budget includes an increase of $780 million for public schools, bringing per-student funding to over $240 for the coming school year. There’s also an increase of discretionary funds of around 2 percent for the state’s school districts. As for the environment, the budget shows about $682 million for projects such as Everglades restoration. The budget also contains funds to rehab the President Harry S. Truman Little White House.

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