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Government Digest: April 9 - April 15

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  • | 4:18 p.m. April 8, 2010
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Record back property taxes owed county
LEE COUNTY — Failure to comply with homestead exemption rules will cost a Lee County couple, Charles and Barbara Parsons, $216,817 in back taxes plus 15% interest — a county record. That's the recent ruling of the county's Value Adjustment Board that found that the couple was renting the south Fort Myers home from 2005 to 2008.

By state law, if a homeowner leaves the property during the rental period, and the residence is rented in consecutive years, the owners do not qualify for the homestead exemption. If the owners don't pay in 30 days, the county will lien the property. The county clerk's office has a lien filed for $8,764 for unpaid tourist development taxes when it was renting out the home. The six-bedroom home is valued by the property appraiser at $4.5 million and is for sale for $7,995,000 reduced from $9,995,000 asked in February.

County commissioner wannabees update
LEE COUNTY — A former candidate for the Lehigh Acres fire board, Raleigh Scott, is the newest applicant for the county commission District 1 seat. The seat became open when Bob Janes passed away in March. Scott joins 26 other applicants vying for the seat including Janes' daughter, small business owner Susan Flinn. Charles Dauray, a member of the South Florida Water Management District governing board, withdrew his application. Gov. Charlie Crist will make the appointment and is expected to schedule interviews soon.

Tort reform bill passes Senate
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Senate passed another tort reform bill March 25 when it approved legislation allowing natural guardians to sign pre-injury releases or waivers on behalf of their minor children. Under Senate bill 2440, sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, the waiver would protect a commercial activity provider, such as a sports facility, from claims, and apply to “inherent risks” involved in an activity. A specific notice to the parent or guardian would be required. The bill also provides methods of rebutting the presumption that the waiver is valid. The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 38-0, and is expected to be approved by the House.

Legislative budgets $2.3 billion apart
TALLAHASSEE — The House has approved a more conservative $67.2 billion budget than the Senate's $69.5 billion budget. The Senate version assumes $880 million in likely, but still uncertain federal Medicaid funds, and $412 million from the pending Seminole Indian gaming compact. University and community college tuition increases 8% under the House budget, but each university has the option to raise it more based on the tuition differential legislation approved last year. State employees could face pay cuts up to 3%, at the discretion of their departments, and monthly stipends subsidizing retiree insurance would end. The Senate budget would raise public school funding by $15.41 per pupil, but would require all counties to levy a local-option property tax charge. The House budget would reduce state funding of public schools by $52 per student.

Gaming deal advances
TALLAHASSEE — A $1.5 billion five-year agreement between the Seminole Tribe and the state is going to the Florida House and Senate, and on to Gov. Charlie Crist should it receive legislative approval. Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, negotiated the latest terms of the agreement that has failed twice previously. The tribe must also still approve the deal. As proposed, the state would receive $150 million in the first two years, $233 million in the third and fourth years and $234 million in the fifth year. In exchange the tribe gets exclusive operation of blackjack and other games at its casinos in Tampa, Immokalee and Hollywood. The tribe would have the option to add table games to its casino in Coconut Creek. For the next 20 years, all seven of the tribe's casinos would be allowed to continue to operate Las Vegas-style slot machines, for which the state would receive additional revenue.


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