Ten Things you Need to Know About the 2013 Florida Legislative Session and How it Affects You
Article from TFPCA.com
The 2013 Florida State Legislative Session has adjourned. According to lawmakers, things went fairly smooth this year, due partially to the fact that more money was allocated than in recent years. The Florida Legislature wrapped things up with a bipartisan tone this session, while also taking advantage of the rebounding economy. However, while some important issues were raised and voted on, others were clearly missed. Overshadowing the victories and disappointments alike was a lackluster attitude all around. Disagreements on federal level plans helped to fuel an underlying bitterness that slowed the process down. Nonetheless, this session wasn’t totally fruitless. Although some big issues didn’t make it to the table, our Legislators were able to make decisions on a few important subjects.
Whether you are a political guru or not, understanding how these newly enacted laws may affect you and your career is crucial. Provided is a condensed list including some of the most debated bills from this Legislative Session.
1. Governor Rick Scott surprisingly showed support for PPACA, a bill in which $51 billion dollars would be allocated to Florida health care, covering 1.1 million low-income people through Medicare, but he later bowed out from any leadership role. The State Legislature was left to decide the details of how this bill would be used to reform healthcare and the bill eventually ended up dying. The money is collected at a federal level so Florida’s claim will be divided and allocated elsewhere, unfortunately, for the 25.3 percent of Floridians who are uninsured. The hospitals are not content with this negligence either, as they will be saddled with millions of dollars in debt from services for the uninsured.
2. Fortunate for doctors, a new law will make it more difficult to sue in medical malpractice lawsuits, allowing their lawyers to consult with the doctors of plaintiffs without another lawyer present thus limiting which expert witnesses can testify.
3. The “Amazon Law” as it has grown to be called, is another example of a missed opportunity by State Legislators. The bill included “revising the term ‘mail order sale’ to specifically include sales of tangible personal property ordered through the Internet.” This would make it law to collect sales tax from online retailers, such as Amazon. It is currently law that it is mandatory for companies with a “physical presence” in Florida to pay the sales tax. Amazon even reached out and offered to build warehouses in Florida, provide up to 2,500 jobs and to remit the sales taxes, but Rick Scott declined, saying that jobs are up. The bill was strongly supported by local business owners who say that it has grown more convenient for people to do their shopping online because online retailers are able to offer lower prices because of the inability for the state to collect taxes from them.
4. The controversy over Internet Cafes has been continuous, but the final decision was made, outlawing electronic slot machines at Internet Cafés and Adult Arcades. The bill was approved in response to a three-year federal and state investigation into illegal gambling at Internet cafes affiliated with Allied Veterans of the World, a St. Augustine-based charity organization, and has already resulted in job losses for hundreds of workers in now-shuttered operations.
5. Sales or transfers of Firearms at Gun Shows will now be prohibited for any person other than a licensed dealer from being a gun show vendor; prohibiting the sale or transfer of a weapon at a gun show unless a licensed dealer is a party to the transaction. Also, providing criminal penalties and prohibiting people voluntarily admitted to a mental institution from possessing a firearm.
6. The Florida Legislature has approved a $200 million settlement that the state received as part of a national agreement reached between major banks and 49 states. $200 million will be allocated from the Foreclosure Fraud Settlement for mortgages. The deal sets aside money for domestic violence shelters, Habitat for Humanity, and a vast amount for Affordable Housing Programs. The bill will put a halt to investigations over foreclosure abuses.
7. A $74.5 billion budget was approved, providing raises for state workers and additional money for teachers. Consequently, tuition for state colleges, universities and workforce education will be increased by 3 percent. While some teachers will receive their much-needed pay raises, it will not apply to all. The downside to the revised plan is that instead of mandating raises for all teachers, the money will be allocated through the School Boards in each district via merit pay programs. These programs are somewhat subjective and allow for little protection against any unfortunate and corrupt misallocation of funds. Teachers deemed “effective” or “highly effective” by the board will be eligible for a raise. Though “effective” or “highly effective” may seem subjective, the data distributed by the Florida Department of Education claims that over 97% of teachers were at least effective during the 2011-2012 school year, therefore most teachers will be deserving, earning an increase in their salaries of a suggested $2,500.
8. Environmentalists received a proposed $74.5 million budget for Everglades restoration projects with $70 million of it to be invested in clean-up efforts. Governor Scott, the federal government and the sugar industry passed the bill to dedicate state money and establish criteria for restoring water quality to the Everglades. The bill earned the rare support of most environmentalists and sugar companies.
9. The debate that became known as the “battle of the billionaires” was rejected as Speaker Weatherford declined even bringing it before the House to be voted on. The Miami Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium renovation bill requested tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to be allotted to multibillionaire Stephen Ross to renovate the stadium. The bill called for local hotel tax increases to help pay for renovations so that they could host Super Bowl L. The Dolphins franchise is very upset, saying that the project would bring jobs and greatly help boost the local economy.
10. A revised Death Penalty passed which will limit the legal arguments used by inmates sentenced to death and awaiting execution, in an effort to accelerate the death penalty process.
Only time will tell how people truly feel about the newly enacted laws, when people start to feel an impact on their lives and careers as a result of the recent Legislative Session.
What is it that makes you claim yourself as a Republican or a Democrat?
In recent years, it seems as if people are struggling a lot more with which party they affiliate themselves with. This may be because party affiliation is not as strong as it once was, or simply because people aren’t as happy with the choices being made by the House and Senate that are reflecting upon them. Also, certain values that were once held by both the Republican and Democratic Parties have diminished over the years. It is imperative that we familiarize ourselves with what being a “Republican” or a “Democrat” means in this day and age, rather than conforming to previous standards.
Take it from Bob Dole, former Republican Senate Majority Leader and 1996 GOP presidential nominee who recently slammed the Republican Party on Fox News Sunday during an interview.
“I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says ‘closed for repairs’ until New Year’s Day next year and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas,” when asked his opinion about today’s Republicans. Dole claimed that the current GOP wouldn’t welcome Republicans like himself, Reagan, or Nixon and that he doubts they would make it in today’s party. He added that the current party should go over their party policy, and that he considers himself as a Republican, but “None of this hyphenated stuff, a mainstream conservative Republican.”
People are growing increasingly impatient and frustrated with the decision making process within our political system. Our world is continuously advancing and emerging culturally in so many ways, causing more complications and conflict to arise. The pressure to adapt to these changes, and to solve these issues, is all left in the hands of our politicians. However, the ones we depend on seem to struggle with coming to a consensus often times, and many of the needs of citizens still aren’t being met.
While there were some good reforms enacted and new laws established, there was nothing profound. The lack of leadership led to little getting done in the grand scheme of things. Too much time and energy was exhausted into coming to an agreement on the budget, costing many other bills the chance to even be heard. On the last day of session, Lawmakers did agree on one thing, a “special session” may be in order come fall for another hearing for Healthcare reform. Unfortunately, all of the other issues will be put on hold until next year.