This tax cut would cost Florida's local governments $644 million. And it just advanced in the Senate.04/28/17Legislature
TALLAHASSEE — An election-year tax break for Florida homeowners that cities and counties say would hurt basic services emerged Friday as the key to a budget deal in the Legislature.
As the session heads into its final days, the Senate urgently moved forward with a dormant proposal to increase the homestead exemption from $50,000 to $75,000, subject to what's viewed as certain voter approval in 2018....
TALLAHASSEE — After promising unprecedented openness, House Speaker Richard Corcoran has spent long days and nights negotiating an elaborate budget deal in secret with Senate counterpart Joe Negron, keeping most other lawmakers and the public in the dark.
Like two attorneys privately resolving a court case, the two lawyers are cutting deals on tax policy, public school spending, charter school expansion, major environmental projects and levels of local pork-barrel spending. They are also negotiating state worker pay raises, new pension and health care plans, changes to statewide tourism and job-incentive programs, and other issues — even a need-based college scholarship program for the children of farm workers, a Senate priority....
04/25/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — State lawmakers reached a tentative deal on an $83 billion budget Tuesday that could end the session on time but could put them on a collision course with Gov. Rick Scott.
A day after a stalemate threatened to derail the legislative session, Republican leaders in the House and Senate privately hammered out the broad terms of a deal that ensures both sides can claim victory for their top priorities....
04/25/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Nothing is immune from the bruising budget battle between the House and Senate in Tallahassee — not even victims of unsolved murders.
When House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, excoriated "liberal" senators for loading the budget with hundreds of millions of dollars in hometown projects, the Senate responded in kind. Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, noted that Corcoran wants to take home $4.3 million for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, where the speaker does legal work....
04/24/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — A bitter stalemate over spending forced the Legislature to suspend work on a budget Monday, stirring more bad blood among Republicans and putting an on-time adjournment in doubt.
Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, bargained privately by phone through last Friday and were making progress on issues such as public school spending and raises for state workers....
TALLAHASSEE — More than a dozen top business local executives went to Tallahassee with an appeal in the days following last week's political showdown between three GOP senators from Tampa Bay over a regional transit bill.
Keep talking. Please.
The nonprofit Tampa Bay Partnership had planned the lobbying trip anyway.
But the delegation arrived just a day after Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, watched in frustration as fellow Republican senators Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg and Tom Lee of Thonotosassa amended his bill to overhaul the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) during a tense meeting of the Senate Community Affairs Committee....
04/22/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Last Monday afternoon, at the start of the state Legislature's seventh week of session, Sen. Audrey Gibson raced up three floors to present one of her bills to the Florida Senate's Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee.
Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, stood behind the lectern and tried to catch her breath as she told colleagues about a 6-year-old from back home who had been involuntarily committed to a mental-health facility for three days for a "temper tantrum." She filed legislation to require such facilities to speed up their evaluation of the about 30,000 admitted each year under the state's Baker Act....
04/20/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Controversy raged in the Florida Capitol for a second day over Sen. Frank Artiles' racist and sexist tirade, distracting and slowing down the Legislature on Thursday, just two weeks before the end of the annual lawmaking session and building pressure on the Miami Republican to resign — or risk the potential career-ending condemnation of the Senate.
The Senate abruptly canceled formal meetings Thursday afternoon as leaders scrambled to find a quick resolution to Artiles' political future. As a Senate lawyer began taking sworn statements about Artiles' Monday-night verbal assault on two black colleagues at a bar near the Capitol, the senator hired a defense attorney who argued Artiles' use of the n-word and other insults are constitutionally protected free speech....
04/20/17 State Roundup
Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
TALLAHASSEE — Voting rights advocates and civil rights attorneys cheered the Florida Supreme Court's unanimous ruling Thursday approving language of a proposed amendment that would restore voting rights for convicted felons, saying the decision is a major step toward erasing a lingering vestige of Jim Crow.
"It's a game changer," said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political scientist who said the ruling could alter the state's political landscape by opening elections up for hundreds of thousands of new voters. If supporters collect the needed signatures to get on the measure on the 2018 ballot, it could energize Democratic-leaning voters in a year when Florida will elect a new governor and a U.S. senator....
04/19/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Forced by Florida Senate leaders to show contrition, Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles stood on the chamber floor Wednesday morning and told his colleagues he was sorry for insulting them in private using curse words and a racial slur.
"I extend a heartfelt apology to my colleagues and to all those I have offended," Artiles began, reading from prepared remarks.
It was not enough....
TALLAHASSEE — The biggest public works project in Tampa history, a $2.3 billion expansion of Tampa International Airport, is at the center of a nasty power struggle among local legislators that could derail their work on a state budget.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants state auditors to review the first phase of the airport project, citing possible cost overruns and construction setbacks based on TV reports....
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has been on the political stage longer than anyone in Florida, since 1972 — the year of Watergate and President Richard Nixon's re-election.
That's staying power. It's no wonder that at 74, he's not ready to retire.
Nelson, the only Democrat holding statewide office, has led a charmed political life, winning three Senate races against weak Republicans.
But that may be coming to an end. He wants a fourth term, and his likely opponent is Republican Gov. Rick Scott....
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Legislature will return to work after Easter with most major spending decisions unresolved as time becomes a factor in the session's home stretch.
Taxpayers don't yet know whether they will pay more in property taxes to run schools next year, or how much they might save in tax cuts.
Hospitals and universities are bracing for possible reductions, and state workers are waiting to learn whether they will get a pay raise for just the second time in the past 10 years....
TALLAHASSEE — For Florida homeowners, it sounds almost too good to be true: another break on property taxes in the form of a bigger homestead exemption.
For legislators, it's an easy way to seek favor with voters in an election year because the tax break requires their approval in 2018.
But for counties and cities, it's a disaster in the making that they warn would cut property taxes for some but force higher taxes on businesses and snowbirds, or force cuts in basic services such as police and fire protection....
TALLAHASSEE — Hospitals, higher education and hometown spending are all focal points of disagreement after Senate and House panels approved rival state budgets Wednesday.
They can't even agree on the bottom line.
The two sides' spending plans are at least $2 billion apart, and their priorities differ, as they often do. They all must be resolved before lawmakers can end the 2017 session by May 5....