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Special Session Bills Signed by the Governor, Constitutional Initiatives, and Energy Forum

December 16, 2005

Below is a quick synopsis of the special session bills that were signed by the Governor this week. Six of the ten bills passed by the legislature have been signed thus far. Missing from this list is the Slot Machine Gaming bill; the Governor has previously stated that he will sign the Slots bill.

  • HB 3B Relating to Medicaid by Rep. Holly Benson (R-Pensacola). This legislation directs the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to begin Medicaid reform in Broward and Duval Counties. Under this new plan, Medicaid participants will be able to opt-out of Medicaid entirely and use their State allocated Medicaid premium to participate in their employer-sponsored health care plan.
  • SB 12B Relating to Wilton Dedge Compensation by Sen. Dan Webster. This bill provides $2 million to Mr. Wilton Dedge for prison time (22 years) served for a crime he did not commit.
  • HB 15B Relating to Ad Valorem Property Tax by Rep. Adam Hasner (R-Delray Beach). This bill allows a county, which was declared a major disaster area by a named storm in 2005, to extend the time in which property tax payment made by property owner qualifies for early-payment discount.
  • SB 18B Relating to Florida Minimum Wage Act by Sen. JD Alexander (R-Lake Wales). On November 2, 2004 voters in Florida approved a Constitutional amendment creating a state minimum wage. The wage was set at $6.15 an hour and is subject to annual adjustments indexed to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The bill incorporates provisions from the amendment and essentially puts them into statute.
  • HB 31B Relating to NASCAR License Plate by Rep. Pat Patterson (R-Deland). Establishes an annual use fee of $25, to be paid by purchasers of the plate in addition to license taxes and fees. Annual use fees are distributed to the NASCAR Hall of Fame to be used exclusively for the construction and operation of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
  • HB 41B Relating to Judges by Rep. Dudley Goodlette (R-Naples). The bill increases the number of circuit judges for the Twentieth Circuit from 23 to 25 and increases the number of county court judges for Collier County from 3 to 5. The bill authorizes 9 positions and provides General Revenue funds to the State Courts System to cover the cost of the new judges and associated support staff. Support staff consists of a law clerk and 2 judicial assistants for the circuit court and 2 judicial assistants for the county court.

AIF Supports Proposed Rule Changes for Constitutional Initiative Process

On Wednesday, December 14th the Florida Department of State held a proposed rule change hearing in conjunction with the Division of Elections. The three proposed rules reflect changes in practice and procedure for the Division of Elections and implement changes passed during the 2004 and 2005 legislative sessions. The reforms move up the deadline for the Secretary of State to receive certified initiative petition signatures from the supervisor of elections from 91 days before the general election to February 1st of each general election year in order for the initiative to be placed on the ballot during the November general election.

One particularly important change in these new rules is the outlawing of “bundling.” Bundling is the practice of attaching multiple signature petitions for separate initiatives. The outlawing of this practice should help reduce the proliferation of initiative petitions.

As the lone business association in attendance at the hearing, AIF was pleased to state for the record that we applaud the Division of Election’s foresight in implementing these new rules.

Governor Bush hold Energy Forum

The 2005 Florida Energy Forum was held on Wednesday, December 14th in Tallahassee. During the day long meeting, industry leaders discussed issues ranging from electric power and transportation fuel to energy conservation. The Florida Energy Forum was part of an Executive Order signed in November by Governor Jeb Bush. The Governor signed this executive order to develop a statewide comprehensive energy plan. In this order, he directs Florida’s executive agencies to continue their energy conservation efforts and encourages the development of additional innovative conservation initiatives. He directs the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop a comprehensive energy plan by evaluating Florida’s current and future energy supply and demand.

To begin the evaluation process, DEP Secretary Colleen Castille gathered some industry leaders and asked them to address Florida’s energy supplies, energy generation, transmission, distribution, conservation and energy security. During the forum, a great effort was made to discuss the barriers presented by government as well as potential incentives that may be offered to the private sector to help secure Florida’s future energy needs.

The discussion was divided into three sections: (1) Electric Power, (2) Transportation Fuel and Conservation, and (3) Efficiency and Alternative Energy Programs in Florida. No concrete decisions were made during the forum. Instead, ideas and concepts were presented by the panelists and the audience was encouraged to submit questions, thereby ensuring a free-flow of ideas. DEP staff was present to gather information for the purposes of submitting recommendations to the Governor and Legislature.

Here are a few highlights from the panelists:

  • Florida is 5th in the Nation in the amount of energy used per person.
  • Florida needs a reliable energy source so we must be more diversified not only by type but by where we get it. This may include the addition of nuclear and coal plants to help with our electric energy source.
  • Current cost for electricity ranges from 4 to 5 cents per kilowatt, however it is predicted that it could rise as high as 50 cents per kilowatt in the near future.
  • Electric energy depends on natural gas and we may need to expand our pipeline system to allow LNG (liquefied natural gas) to come into Florida.
  • Fuel is important to the transportation needs of Florida. Gasoline is brought into Florida’s ports and distributed to retail locations. However, Florida needs to look at expanding its fuel for transportation needs to include hydrogen fuel. H2FL began two years ago with pilot projects in Orlando and we need to expand to other locations.
  • Florida needs to work on its conservation programs such as landscaping that uses less water and changing light bulbs in homes and offices to more efficient ones.
  • Off shore drilling and exploration needs to be considered.*
  • Solar energy needs to be used more … after all we are the “Sunshine State.”

At the conclusion of the forum Secretary Castille asked for comments from anyone with an interest in energy to submit information and/or suggestions to the DEP by December 21. She would like to see suggestions for short term; mid term and long term solutions. A report will be given to the Governor; President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House by January 17, 2006. On a related note, Senator Lee Constantine (R-Altamonte Springs) has already stated that his committee will have an “Energy Bill” for the 2006 Session and expects the House to do the same.

*AIF recently held a press conference on the topic of Off-Shore Drilling. Please go here for a copy of the official press release.