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Tallahassee Roundup: Week 4

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BRADENTON – In week 4, lawmakers forged ahead with their promised agenda, regadless of public responses. A Senate pension bill seen as less destructive than the House version gained some union support; despite a cold reception at hearings, the parent-trigger bill is pushed to the Senate floor for debate; election reform hits a snag and developers are continuing to get favorable treatment in proposed growth management bills.

Although Democrats and unions have adamantly opposed gutting defined-benefit pensions, unions leaned toward a Senate bill this week, seen as less harmful than a House plan that would eliminate them altogether. The Senate plan (CS/SB 1392) passed the Appropriations Committee 13-5.

The bill incentivizes public employees to leave the traditional pension plan in favor of an investment retirement plan similar to a 401k by reducing their contribution from 3 to 2 percent, while restricting new senior-level hires to the defined contribution plan.

Florida’s Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved legislation that would hasten the state’s foreclosure process, removing some protections for homeowners and softening safeguards for bank fraud. The committee passed similar legislation last year though it died before reaching the floor.

The Sierra Club is hotly contesting some growth management bills that would restrict the ability of local governments to levy fees on developers. HB 321 and SB 1716 would restrict local governments from imposing impact fees on certain developments, while 319 and its companion SB 972 would limit the ability to collect transportation impact fees. Opponents say that such measures not only push development costs back on taxpayers, forcing them to further subsidize the costs of sprawl.

The parent-trigger bill is scheduled for debate in the Senate Education Committee this Monday, after a similar plan quickly went through the House, despite strong opposition from lawmakers and education activists. The bill would add options for failing turnaround schools, to include parent input on turning it over to for-profit charter companies. 

SB 600 has election reform advocates worried over a requirement that anyone voting absentee have an adult witness their signature, while anyone who wanted an absentee ballot mailed to an address other than their voting address would have to fill out an affidavit – restrictions they say would impact seniors, students and military members when voting. 


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