The proposed Florida State 2018 budget has been sent to the Governor.
Educators and citizens are calling on Governor Rick Scott to veto the budget because of the shift of $140 million to private education from struggling public schools, and forcing school districts to share capital funds with charter schools . House Bill 7609 was crafted away from the public, and the 278 page bill was given only a brief glimpse of daylight before being voted on in the legislature. The legislature also made it easier for parents to object to teaching materials in public schools, and seemingly screwed USF out of some major dollars.
Hospitals that often serve the poor and uninsured had significant cuts of both state money and the federal Medicaid funds the state would accept, seeing $521 million taken out of the budget. To compensate, they were promised a share of some other federal money. According to a Tampa Bay Times article, local hospitals including Tampa General, St. Josephs, Johns Hopkins in St. Pete, and others are facing an almost $92 million cut.
Arts and cultural organizations are hunkering down as they see 60% of their state funding slashed out of the proposed budget.
Rick Scott himself is contemplating a veto because of the absence of significant funding for his tourism and economic development priorities.
The Florida Forever program, passed by voters in 2014, remains unfunded. Here’s a good article about that. The Florida legislators also did not act on last November’s voter mandate on medical marijuana.
There will be two homestead exemption tax related questions on the 2018 ballot about capping non-homesteaded properties, and raising the exemption from $50,000 to $75,000. The exemption first came about in 1980 and was for $25,000. It was raised to $50,000 in 2008. It is one of the primary funding sources for local governments, and there are concerns that raising it again, combined with capping non-homesteaded property taxes, could be crippling local governments, especially small beach towns.
The $82.4 billion budget does fund a few priorities. Most notably, there is $1.6 billion set for a three year building period for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, which was one of Senate President Joe Negron’s priorities. There is also a small increase for state employees in it.
Here is a round up of some of the things that happened, or very definitely won’t be happening, courtesy of the Florida State Legislature this year.
Stand Your Ground laws were changed. The burden of proof was shifted from the shooter’s defense to the state prosecutors, who now must prove that the defendant does not qualify for self-defense immunity. Also, the shooter no longer has to be attacked before threatening to use force.
Some gun laws failed, including laws prohibiting assault weapons, open carry, eliminating current gun-free zones, repealing ‘docs & glocks’ law (prohibiting doctors from asking people about guns at home), and mental health screening for gun purchasers.
Voters approved (73%!) a solar amendment to make it easier for Floridians to get solar equipment, and the legislature passed the appropriate law to make it happen, SB90. And the aforementioned Everglades clean up was passed, though not funded as much as Joe Negron would have liked.
The bills which would allow utilities to bill customers up to $500 million for fracking failed.
On the Roads
Three major things happened that affect the Tampa Bay area: Uber and Lyft can’t be regulated by local governments; the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission was abolished; and TBARTA narrowed down to 5 counties (Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties, losing Citrus and Sarasota) and changed its name to reflect Transit instead of Transportation.
One of the first things the legislature did was pass a law complying with the Supreme Court ruling that juries most vote unanimously to sentence someone to death.
Two proposed measures prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation (and gender identity) in housing, restaurants, employment and public facilities FAILED.
A few of the other controversial measures had mixed results. The legislature didn’t pass any laws with changes to gambling measures; nor requiring ‘able bodied’ Medicaid recipients to have jobs; give harsher penalties to undocumented immigrants for their crimes; ban municipalities from being sanctuary cities; nor pull Florida out of the refugee resettlement program.
Nor did a law pass which would remove some barriers for women claiming wage discrimination; cap worker compensation attorney fees; or allow a couple of lawmakers to meet and decide policy in private (like the budget???). Ones that did pass were: increasing criminal penalties for possession of certain opiods; give judges the option of refusing to assign attorney fees in some public records cases; let big box stores sell alcohol in the store; allows increased student led public prayer in schools; and lots more.
The laws go in effect on July 1, 2017. A budget veto, or other circumstances, might require the legislature to have a special session.
Information in this post comes from multiple sources, including this Tampa Bay Times article, this great Miami New Times piece, and this Miami Herald article, plus all of the ones cited in this post. In addition, the always great reporting and conversations on WMNF’s news and public affairs programs, and local news headlines, have been invaluable.