Governor Scott’s “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tax cut package

On January 25th, Governor Scott released his $618M tax cut package for consideration by the Florida Legislature.  Governor Scott said, “While Florida’s economy has made great strides over the past six years, we have to continue to fight for Florida’s future and ensure our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to succeed in our great state. We know one of the best ways to do that is to keep cutting taxes, and even though we have already cut more than $6.5 billion in taxes, we can do more. That is why I am fighting for Florida families and our future generations by recommending to cut taxes by $618 million this year.

Governor Scott’s “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tax cut package includes:

  • Decreasing the Tax on Business Rents by $454 Million – Florida is the only state that has a tax on commercial leases which unfairly targets small businesses. Governor Scott is proposing to reduce the tax on commercial leases by 25 percent in 2018, saving Florida businesses $454 million a year.
  • Sales Tax Holidays to Save Families and Veterans $98 Million – Governor Scott is proposing four sales tax holidays which will save Florida families and veterans an estimated $98 million in the upcoming fiscal year. These sales tax holidays include:
  • $72 million from a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday;
  • $7 million from a nine-day disaster preparedness sales tax holiday;
  • $18.4 million from a three-day veteran’s sales tax holiday; and
  • $500,000 from a one-day camping and fishing sales tax holiday.
  • Providing a One-Year Sales Tax Exemption on College Textbooks to Save Students $48 Million – Governor Scott is proposing to exempt the purchase of college textbooks from the sales tax for the 2017-18 academic year. The prices of college textbooks have increased significantly, often exceeding $100 per book. Exempting college textbooks from the sales tax is expected to save Florida students $48 million.
  • Cutting the Business Tax to Save Job Creators $15 Million – Governor Scott is proposing to exempt 22.5 percent of businesses from having to pay income taxes by increasing the corporate tax exemption from $50,000 to $75,000. Eliminating this tax will provide annual savings of $15 million and help more small businesses hire additional workers.  This proposal will eliminate these taxes for more than 80 percent of Florida’s businesses. This exemption was increased from $5,000 to $25,000 in 2011 and $50,000 in 2012.
  • Exempting School Book Fairs from the Sales Tax to Save Families and Students $3 Million – Governor Scott is proposing to exempt the purchases of books at school book fairs from the sales tax, saving Florida families $3 million each year.

DOAH Strikes Onerous Proposed Rule Requiring Public Notification of “Reportable Releases”

…New Pollution Notification Legislation in the Works

Recently, the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) entered a final order invalidating the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposed rule expanding notification requirements (including notification to the local media) for every release of any substance that could pose an immediate danger to human health, welfare, or property.

Recently, the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) entered a final order invalidating the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposed rule expanding notification requirements (including notification to the local media) for every release of any substance that could pose an immediate danger to human health, welfare, or property.

Siding with business groups that filed the rule challenge, Administrative Law Judge Bram Canter determined that DEP lacked statutory authority to adopt a rule requiring notification of persons and entities other than DEP . Judge Canter found the department’s rule expanded the requirements of the statutes on which DEP claimed to rely, and exceeded DEP’s rulemaking authority. Additionally in his 21-page ruling, Judge Canter concluded that DEP improperly rejected a lower cost regulatory alternative which would have correctly kept the notification burden on DEP.

With the proposed rule tossed out, DEP’s similar emergency rule is no longer in effect. DEP has not yet indicated whether it intends to appeal the ruling. Time will tell whether future judicial and legislative action will resurrect the onerous requirements, but for now, the expansive third-party notification requirements imposed by both the emergency and proposed rules no longer exist.

Existing laws relating to “reportable” pollution reporting requirements remain in effect. State Representative Kathleen Peters and Senator Bill Galvano will be filing legislation to address reportable pollution notification Recently, NUCA of Florida met with Rep. Peters to relay our concerns with the initial DEP rule and Rep. Peters pledged to work with NUCA of Florida and other business groups to craft a workable proposal.

Overtime Final Rule in Limbo

On November 22, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant granted an Emergency Motion for Preliminary Injunction and thereby enjoined the Department of Labor (DOL) from implementing and enforcing the Overtime Final Rule on December 1, 2016. On December 1, the Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of the DOL filed a notice to appeal the preliminary injunction to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (the Court). The DOJ moved to expedite the appeal and on December 8, the Court granted their motion. Under the schedule set by the Court, briefings are to be completed by January 31, 2017. This means that the DOL will not file its final brief and that an oral argument will not occur until after the presidential administration has changed. It is important to note that the Court’s order was issued on the same day that President-elect Donald J. Trump announced that his nominee for Secretary of Labor, which is the top position at the DOL, is Andrew Puzder, a fast-food CEO who has been a critic of government regulation and opposes a $15 minimum wage and broader overtime pay. It remains to be seen whether the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) revisions will ever see the light of day, but NUCA of Florida will continue to keep its members apprised of new developments.

Senate Banking & Insurance Committee Meeting

On Tuesday, December 13, the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee held an introductory meeting and a public hearing on the issue of workers compensation. Chaired by Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami, the Keys) Senators heard testimony from all the stakeholders, including representatives from the trial bar, the workers’ union, the Florida Chamber, Associated Industries of Florida, the insurance carriers and the construction industry. Speaking on behalf of the Florida Home Builders Association and the National Utility Contractors Association of Florida (NUCA FL), lobbyist Kari Hebrank addressed the Committee relaying that reforming the workers compensation system to drive down costs was a top legislative priority and that the importance to the construction industry could not be understated given that the industry was just beginning to recover from the economic tsunami that crippled the building and development community. Hebrank also testified that the financial impact of the 14.5% increase was cumulative for small, family-owned businesses dealing with rising workers compensation rates and increased health care premiums for employees. Moreover, Hebrank reiterated the importance to employers of getting injured workers back to work swiftly as the industry faces a critical workforce shortage (another legislative priority). Lastly, Hebrank told the Senators NUCA of Florida stands ready as a partner in finding a workable solution to reign in escalating workers compensation costs.

View the Senate Banking & Insurance hearing.