Governmental action from around the Gulf Coast.
Corporate income tax exemption quintuples
TALLAHASSEE — House and Senate leaders have agreed to increase the state's corporate income tax exemption from $5,000 to $25,000, which is expected to cut in half the number of businesses that pay the state's corporate income tax. Roughly 30,000 businesses currently pay the tax.
The deal replaces a proposal by Gov. Rick Scott to gradually reduce the tax rate to zero in seven years. According to House spokesperson Katie Betta, increasing the exemption is estimated to cost $30 million in the $68 billion budget agreed to by House and Senate leaders.
Voters may decide on 5% property tax cap
TALLAHASSEE — The House passed a joint resolution, HJR 381, calling for commercial property owners' property tax assessments to be subject to a 5% annual increase cap if approved by voters. Currently, the cap is 10%. Also passed by the Senate, the measure requires voter approval of the proposed state constitutional amendment. The cap also applies to real estate investors and landlords who own non-homestead property.
Owner-occupied homes with a homestead exemption currently have their tax assessment increases limited to 3%, or an increase in the consumer price index, whichever is less.
Senate adds growth reform bill to budget
TALLAHASSEE — If and when the Legislature passes the proposed $68 billion budget, it will also be approving the growth management reform legislation previously passed by the House. Senate leaders added House Bill 7129 to the budget — despite the objections of Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater — rather than risk amendments to the lengthy package that might make it difficult to reconcile before the end of the session. The bill passed the House 86-31.
Appeals court overturns 2009 growth bill ruling
TALLAHASSEE — After the Legislature went to the trouble this session to rewrite a 2009 growth management law based on a lower court decision, a Tallahassee appeals court overturned that ruling May 2. Last year, a Leon County circuit judge ruled that the law contained multiple subjects and amounted to an unfunded mandate on local government. Several local government associations, plus several local governments led by the city of Weston, challenged the law. In a unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal, the court ruled that the proper defendant was the department of community affairs, which would have been the agency to enforce the law, and not legislators, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, and former Gov. Charlie Crist. Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation late last month to re-enact major portions of the 2009 law.
SEED fund shrinks, strings added
TALLAHASSEE — A fund to recruit businesses to the state, originally set at more than $400 million, has been reduced by legislators via a budget compromise to $50 million. The so-called “SEED Fund” that House members had proposed would also not be made available until the 2012-13 fiscal year. It's also subject to Gov. Rick Scott's office submitting a business plan for expenditures from the fund to the Legislature.
House approves deregulation bill
TALLAHASSEE — A bill easing environmental permitting regulations imposed on builders and developers passed the House 96-15. House Bill 991 rolls several bills into one including measures to enable more rock mining and dredging, streamline permitting, revise mitigation requirements for impacts related to transportation projects, and prohibit a municipality from conditioning a development permit on obtaining state and federal permits.
Legislature says no to health insurance purchase mandate
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Senate took up and passed House Bill 1193 prohibiting the state from requiring state residents to purchase health insurance. The House Bill replaces Senate Bill 1754, and now goes to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature. The governor is expected to sign the measure.
Sen. Bennett to run for U.S. House
MANATEE COUNTY — Sen. President Pro-tempore Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, says he plans to file next month to run against U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, for the District 11 U.S. House seat. The district currently includes parts Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties.
Although Bennett currently lives in District 13 in southern Manatee County, there's a good chance that he would be residing in District 11 once congressional district lines are redrawn, which is expected to occur in January. In any event, though not required by the U.S. Constitution, Bennett plans to live in District 11.
Bennett, 66, an electrical contractor, business and real estate investor, was elected to the Florida House in 2000 before moving over to the Senate in 2002. He faces legislative term limits in 2012, making a run for Congress an easy transition.