Controversial bills dying off like houseflies

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Controversy is a mark of death right now for bills in Legislature—many have already fallen victim and some are certain to meet their demise sooner than later.

Between alarming budget concerns and redistricting battles, proposed legislation that met with staunch opposition inevitably found its way to the morgue. This hasn’t been a year of the slow and painful death either often complicated with stalling votes or postponing decisions. A quick and merciful shot to the head and the bills fell dead as they were voted down, not able to pass through both chambers.

For instance, the destination casino resort bill was killed off after it failed to get through its first committee. House Rules Chairman Gary Aubuchon decided not to take on the battle.

What surely has added insult to injury is House Speaker Dean Cannon’s promise that for a bill to reach a floor vote, it must pass at least one committee. As the last House committee meetings are on Monday and the Senate’s are on Tuesday, prospects for further legislation are dismal.

Below is a listing of a few bills that have either already died or are likely headed to the grave, as reported by The Current:

SB 2106 – The bill would have allowed restaurants to pay their tipped employees the federal standard of $2.13 per hour instead of the Florida minimum wage for tipped employees of $4.65 per hour, provided they guaranteed an overall wage of $10 per hour. Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, a main backer of the bill, said this week the legislation was dead for this session, citing difficulty in getting it moving in the House and having the legislation apply fairly to all types of tipped workers.

SJR 314/SB312/HJR 1289 – After announcing his intention to revive the measure, Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, on Thursday tabled the proposed “super exemption” for homestead properties, which had already faltered before a House committee.

HB 4177 – A straight repeal of red-light cameras appears to have crashed this year. Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, postponed his bill before the House Economic Affairs Committee this week, sensing he didn’t have enough votes. He said he’s still holding out hope of persuading members, but after narrowly passing through the House last year and not getting a vote in the Senate, it’s not likely to get through the intersection before the hanky is dropped.

HB 3/SB 380 – Plakon has a lot of heavy lifting to do during the final two weeks. His bill to ban Internet sweepstakes cafes is likely to be voted out of the House, but a similar proposal is essentially dead in the Senate, where a measure to regulate the storefront casinos was preferred. Gov. Rick Scott and the entire Cabinet have come out in favor of a ban, but don’t bet on this issue getting resolved this session.

HB 833/SB 1372 – An odd grouping of business interests and environmental organizations are backing legislation to shrink the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, or Cat Fund, from $17 million to $12 million over five years, and increasing co-pays for private insurance companies. But some private property insurers, as well as state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., are fighting the bill, since it will mean higher rates for policyholders, and make Citizens’ policies more attractive. The Senate version is up for a committee vote next week, but shows no signs of movement in the House after Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, chairwoman of the House Economic Affairs Committee, adjourned her committee’s final meeting Friday without considering the bill.

SB 2098/SB 1514 – Proposals to collect sales taxes on Internet purchases are being read their last rites. Two separate plans in the Senate to begin collecting the tax from online retailers such as Amazon were backed by traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. However, they  appear to have fallen victim to election-year jitters over voting for a perceived tax increase, even though provisions were added  to include tax cuts to offset any additional revenue gathered by the state. Although the bills were moving in the Senate, similar proposals have yet to receive a hearing in the House.

And I concur with the final prognosis as written by Gray Rhorer, reporter of The Current, “Of course, with last-minute horsetrading and legislative maneuvering ahead of budget conferences, the prospect of a Lazarus-like revival for some measures cannot be ruled out. But chances of survival are slim for bills carrying the fever of controversy in the final weeks.”

Via Daphne Street. You may reach Daphne at dts.streetmedia@gmail.com.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.