BRADENTON – The 2013 legislative session came to a close this week and as usual, there were plenty of last-minute theatrics. In the the end, demands were made and deals were cut, and while some signature legislation died on the floor, the Republican controlled legislature was nonetheless able to pass most of their priority legislation.
The legislature approved a $74 billion 2014 budget (up from $69.9 billion in FY 2013), which included raises for teachers and other state workers. An ethics reform bill was also passed. While it was largely applauded by watchdog groups, many expressed dismay over the campaign finance “reform" bill, which raised the cap on individual donations to political campaigns from $500 to $3,000, though Governor Scott had hinted at vetoing such increases prior.
An alimony bill passed, only to be vetoed by governor Rick Scott over concerns that it's retroactive nature would cause to many problems for families who have made economic decision based on existing rulings.
A watered down version of the texting while driving ban surprised many when it was passed on Thursday. Nuclear reform failed, though a watered-down law that requires Public Service Commission approval for nuclear cost recovery fees, which utilities use to pre-bill customers billions of dollars for future nuclear power plants that may of may not actually be built, passed.
The governor got his sales tax break for manufacturing equipment, estimated to cost over $120 million in tax revenue, however, Democrats have threatened to sue, claiming that since it did not receive a 2/3 majority vote, such a change is not constitutional.
The controversial “parent trigger” bill and an effort to end defined-benefit pensions for state workers both failed on close votes in the Senate, where a bi-partisan effort to defeat the measures prevailed. Barring a special session called by the governor, the Florida Legislature is now recessed for 2013.
Mark Ferrulo, executive director of the watchdog group Progress Florida, summed up the session as a giant disappointment. "In dissecting the 2013 legislative session," said Ferrulo, "one thing is clear, Florida has the wrong leaders with the wrong priorities. Floridians want effective and efficient government that improves our quality of life and protects the middle class. What Republican leadership delivered was a 60 day corporate special interest feeding frenzy."
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