Crisafulli Reports On Final Legislative Session
By Steve Crisafulli, Florida State Representative // May 5, 2013
DISTRICT 51 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FOR MAY 4, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – The 2013 Legislative Session ended Friday after the Legislature passed a responsible, balanced $74.5 billion budget for the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year with strong bipartisan support.
Even though our state’s financial picture improved this year and we had the first budget surplus since 2006, we stuck to our principles and made sure we lived within our means and did not raise taxes or fees on Florida’s families and businesses.
This budget reflects our commitment to provide quality education for Florida students.
6.3 PERCENT INCREASE PER STUDENT FOR BREVARD COUNTY SCHOOLS
We added an additional $1.5 billion to the K-12 budget over current year funding levels. This equates to a 6.3% or $410.83 increase in per-student funds for Brevard County schools. We also included $480 million for teacher pay increases, which will result in teachers receiving raises between $2,000 – $3,500. Funds for state universities and state colleges were increased by $241.6 million and $67.9 million respectively, as well.
Our budget also strengthens the safety net for our most vulnerable citizens by fully funding the increase in Medicaid caseloads and KidCare enrollment, increasing Medicaid provider rates and Medicaid Impatient Hospital Reimbursement rates, increasing funding for additional elder waiver slots in community based care diversion programs, and providing additional funding for substance abuse and mental health care services.
The budget also demonstrates the importance of public safety to the people of the state by allocating funds to the Department of Corrections to cover the increase in the prison population and to maintain/repair facilities utilized by the Departments of Corrections and Juvenile Justice, as well as the State Courts. This budget also provides for a pay raise for law enforcement officers.
To help strengthen our economy and attract tourists to our state, the budget includes $198.4 million for economic development and marketing programs. The budget increases funding for Space Florida to help diversify our state’s space industry and fully funds the Department of Transportation Work Program to improve our state’s infrastructure.
This budget includes $78 million for Everglades restoration and $70 million for Florida Forever to protect our state’s natural resources, as well.
We were also able to provide a pay raise to state workers in this budget for the first time in seven years.
Lastly, we allocated $2.8 billion in reserve funding. This prudent step will allow our state to maintain its top AAA credit rating and be prepared for potential budget shortfalls in the future.
Though the last few years required the Legislature to make many reductions in spending, our fiscal prudence put the state on firmer financial footing and helped us arrive at a stronger budgetary position this year. Again, our budget utilizes only existing, available revenues and does not raise taxes or fees. I believe this budget shows our commitment to fiscal responsibility, education, healthcare, public safety, the environment, and to strengthening Florida’s economy.
2013 SESSION HIGHLIGHTS
As I look back on this Session, I’m proud of the many accomplishments the Legislature was able to achieve. Some of these legislative highlights include:
• Ethics/Elections/Campaign Finance Reform
Three of our major priorities this year were improving Florida’s ethics, elections, and campaign finance systems. We successfully passed legislation to strengthen our ethics laws and make our campaign finance system more transparent and accountable. We also passed important elections reforms that should fix many of the problems experienced during the 2012 General Election.
• Tax Relief for Florida Families and Businesses
The Legislature passed several measures to provide tax relief to Floridians. SB 406 establishes the 2013 Back to School Sales Tax Holiday for August 2 – August 4. The sales tax exemption covers clothing and backpacks under $75, school supplies under $15, and computers under $750.
HB 7007 provides for a sales tax exemption on machinery and equipment used by manufacturers to make manufacturing in Florida more competitive with other states and to help create jobs.
• Everglades Restoration
The Everglades is one of Florida’s greatest treasures. This year, the Legislature passed HB 7065, historic legislation supported by environmentalists, sugar farmers, and policy makers alike that will move the restoration efforts of our great Florida Everglades into their final phase.
• Texting While Driving
SB 52 makes texting while driving illegal in the State of Florida. It also allows police and prosecutors to seek phone records in the event of an accident that results in injury or death, allowing them to determine whether or not driver distraction was a cause of the crash.
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• Property Insurance
SB 1770 makes changes to the state’s property insurance market, but includes no provisions that allow for rate increases. The bill creates an Inspector General for Citizens and adds a consumer advocate to Citizens’ Board of Directors. One of the most significant components of SB 1770 is the creation of a clearinghouse to shrink the size of Citizens Insurance. The clearinghouse will direct consumers to insurers offering coverage at the same or lower prices than Citizens. These changes will help make Citizens more financially secure and reduce the risk borne by Florida taxpayers.
• Nuclear Advanced Cost Recovery Fee
SB 1472 makes changes to the way utility companies are able to pay for the construction of nuclear power plants. The bill restricts the amount of time a utility company may assess a nuclear advanced cost recovery fee on consumers and authorizes the Public Service Commission (PSC) to determine whether a utility company actually intends to complete construction of the nuclear power plant – if the PSC determines the company is not intent on finishing the plant, then the company may no longer assess a cost recovery fee on consumers. These changes to the law should save ratepayers between $700 – $800 million.
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