Update from Tallahasse: Legislative Session 2010 Week Four

Education was a major theme of this fourth week of session. In the first week details of Senate Bill 6 by Senator John Thrasher of Jacksonville were written in this space. This week the Florida Senate passed this bill, which will change the way in which public school teachers are evaluated and compensated. The legislation is based on the premise that the evaluation of a teacher’s effectiveness should be measured by the success of their students. Additionally, another education-related bill by Senator Thrasher, Senate Bill 4, passed the Senate. This legislation will raise the standards for math and science credits for high school students (phased in over the next few years). Also, Senator Don Gaetz of Niceville’s SJR 2 passed the Senate. If adopted by the House it will put on the next general ballot the option to amend the class size amendment and give school districts more flexibility in meeting the requirements of the amendment while maintaining its spirit.

Senator Mike Fasano of New Port Richey’s SJR 718 advanced one step closer to consideration by the full Senate this week. The proposed amendment to Florida’s Constitution will, if adopted by Florida’s electorate, will override the so-called “Recapture Rule” enacted into administrative code by former Governor Chiles and the Cabinet in 1995. The way it works now is that Save Our Homes caps the annual taxable value increase of real property at 3%, no matter what the assessed value may be. However, when the market value goes down (as most property values did during the economic downturn), the Recapture Rule allowed the assessed value to be limited to a 3% reduction (or the CPI) no matter if the actual value may have gone down 10 or 20 % or more. That is why, despite the constitutional amendment and the statutory rollback that took place a few years ago, most property owners saw little if any decrease in their property taxes. Without the Recapture Rule, they would have seen a large deduction in their taxes because the taxes would have been tied to the market value of their home, not the assessed value (which may be artificially inflated to keep the tax base high). Senator Fasano is hopeful that the House will share his passion to save property owners from the continually high rates of property taxation they are subjected to.

Senate Bill 1224 by Senator Andy Gardiner of Orlando, which previously passed the House as House Bill 689 by Representative Gary Aubuchon of Cape Coral, sends to the governor the so-called “Slip and Fall” bill. The legislation will require that if a person slips and falls on a substance that otherwise would not have belonged on the floor of a business, the victim of the fall will have to prove that the business had knowledge of the condition of the floor and did not take action to fix the problem. Once the governor receives the bill he will have 7 days to take action on it (sign or veto). If he receives a bill after the session ends he has 15 days to take action.

Each year the House and Senate rotate hosting the annual budget building process. This year the House is the host, thus that chamber sends its version of the bill over to the Senate for consideration first. Additionally, the House hosts the conference process to reconcile the two distinct and often very different visions for the state’s upcoming fiscal year. This week the Senate Ways & Means Committee voted on, and passed out, its version of the state budget. During week five the Senate will meet to vote on the budget and agree to meet with the House in conference. At that time conferees representing the two chambers will be announced and the fun will begin.

For more information please visit: http://tampabayinformer.com/Government/Politics/2010/04/01/Update-from-Tallahasse-Legislative-Session-2010-Week-Four.html