Latest Highlights from the 2014 Florida Legislative Session

Dean Mead’s Government Relations, Lobbying and Administrative Law industry team are pleased to provide a summary report of the highlights from the 2014 Florida Legislative Session.

State Retirement Reform. Debate centered last week on giving new state employees a choice between the defined contribution system and the defined benefit plan. SB 1114 by the Community Affairs Committee and HB 7173 by the State Affairs Committee were the topics of discussion. These bills also make the investment plan for new senior management hires compulsory.

Budget. In the final weeks, we begin to see the budget finalized. The Senate budget has funding for citrus greening and budwood facilities, and the House budget includes funding for snail eradication. Senate and House budgets fund local water projects.

Reclaimed Water. Bills that require theDepartment of Environmental Protection, in coordination with stakeholders, to conduct a study on the beneficial use of reclaimed water, stormwater, and excess surface water are moving through the legislative process. Supporters believe that these bills will reduce the demand for groundwater. SB 536 by Senator Simpson has been engrossed in the Senate and HB 601 by Representative Ray is on second reading.

Springs Cleanup. SB 1576 by Senator Dean and HB 1313 by Representative Brodeur are the springs cleanup package that establish minimum flows and levels for springs. Senators supporting the springs bills remain “cautiously optimistic” that the bills will pass both houses. Senators have met with House leaders to encourage their support. House Speaker Weatherford says the fate of the springs legislation is still “to be determined.” SB 1576 is in the Appropriations Committee and HB 1313 has yet to be heard by committee.

Security of Personal Information. HB 7085 by the Civil Justice Subcommittee and SB 1524 by Senator Thrasher creates the Florida Information Protection Act of 2014. The bill requires notice of a security breach in a computer system that contains personal information to be given to the Department of Legal Affairs and affected persons.  SB 1524 has been engrossed in the Senate, and HB 7085 was placed on second reading in the House.

Sports Teams Tax Breaks. HB 7095 by the Economic Affairs Committee and SB 1216 by Senator Latvala provide state funding for stadiums & spring training facilities seeking facility upgrades. The application process requires applicants to reimburse the state with state sales tax generated by sales at the facility. The Senate bill provides a limit of $6 million in 2014-2015, and $13 million annually thereafter would be available for any one project. The House bill provides that a limit of $12 million would be available. HB 7095 is on second reading. SB 1216 has been approved by all committees, and will be discussed during the revenue estimating conference this week.

Gaming. The gaming legislation that was the center of attention at the beginning of session is now dead as we enter the home stretch. Governor Scott is said to be negotiating with the Seminole Indian Tribe on the compact which expires next year.  In the meantime, the legislature has put a halt on the legislation.