The sixty-day 2023 Regular Session officially ended at 11:00 AM this Past Friday in Tallahassee. Numerous high profile, controversial bills were passed as lawmakers teed up Governor DeSantis' priorities in anticipation of his presidential run. A significant amount of time and energy was spent pushing through the Governor's priorities this year as he positions himself for a presidential primary battle against Donald Trump. Headline grabbing issues like a 6 week abortion ban, elimination of unanimous jury recommendations for death sentences, additional restrictions on voter-registration groups, increased requirements on businesses for immigration status of workers, bills targeting LGBTQ issues, taxpayer-funded vouchers for all students, and loosening gun laws by passage of the so-called "constitutional carry" legislation.
Other controversial legislation passed, include making it a misdemeanor for someone to use certain bathrooms that don't align with their sex at birth, eliminating the state's economic incentive agency, Enterprise Florida, further action against Disney, and partisan elections of schoolboard members to name a few.
Click here to view brief summaries of all bills passed this Session. The enrolled bills listed are subject to gubernatorial veto.
Democrats said the Legislature ignored the "real issues" that affect Floridians like housing affordability and lack of health care coverage and was instead obsessed with culture wars and solving problems that do not exist in an effort to pad the Governor's platform for his anticipated run for President. Republicans enjoy supermajorities in both chambers, so Democrats were largely powerless to kill or amend opposed bills.
Members waited the mandatory 72 hour "cooling off" period before voting on the $117 billion FY 2023-24 State Budget. The final version passed both the House and Senate unanimously (111-0, 38-0) indicating universal approval of the measure. With state coffers overflowing and revenues exceeding projections routinely, there was something for everyone in the budget. Billions of dollars in member projects are sprinkled throughout and tax rebates totaling $2.7 billion will bring temporary tax relief from everything to diapers to livestock fencing.
We will distribute our annual Legislative Summary document electronically in the next week. The summary will include detailed summaries of major legislation passed and failed, including bill statistics and a budget breakdown.
Other Bill Action During Final Week of Session
SB 214 Sale of Firearms and Ammunition revises Florida gun registry laws to prohibit certain entities from using an identifying code for purchases from firearm or ammunition retailers. The information gathered from the use of such codes could be construed as a firearm registry maintained by private entities, which current law prohibits.
SB 252 Protection from Discrimination Based on Health Care Choices amends several statutes in order to prohibit mask mandates; mandates on emergency use authorizations (EUA) vaccinations, messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccinations, and COVID-19 vaccinations; and COVID-19 testing mandates in educational institutions, business entities, and governmental entities.
The bill prohibits these entities and institutions from requiring proof of a vaccination with one of the specified types of vaccinations, post infection recovery from COVID-19, or a COVID-19 test to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the entity or institution. The bill also prohibits business and governmental entities from certain employment practices based on an employee's, or a potential employee's, vaccination or post infection status or the refusal to take a COVID-19 test. The bill's provisions relating to mRNA vaccines are repealed on June 1, 2025.
Additionally, the bill prohibits business entities, governmental entities, and educational institutions from requiring a person to wear a mask, a face shield, or any other facial covering that covers the nose and mouth or denying a person access to, entry upon, service from, or admission to such entity or institution or otherwise discriminating against any person based on his or her refusal to wear a mask, face shield, or other facial covering.
SB 258 Prohibited Applications on Government-issued Devices instructs the Department of Management Services (DMS) to create a list of prohibited applications, defined as those that (1) are created, maintained, or owned by a foreign principal and that engage in specific activities that endanger cybersecurity; or (2) present a security risk in the form of unauthorized access to or temporary unavailability of a public employer's information technology systems or data, as determined by the DMS. This definition will likely include TikTok and WeChat.
The bill requires public employers (including state agencies, public education institutions, and local governments) to:
- Block access to prohibited applications on any wireless network or virtual private network that it owns, operates, or maintains;
- Restrict access to prohibited applications on any government-issued device; and
- Retain the ability to remotely wipe and uninstall prohibited applications from a compromised government-issued device.
All persons are prohibited from downloading prohibited applications on a government-issued device, and officers and employees of a public employer must remove any prohibited application from their government-issued device within 15 calendar days of the DMS' issuance of a list of prohibited applications.
SB 262 Technology Transparency clarifies the definition of "governmental entity" in the section of the bill that prohibits government directed content moderation of social media platforms, and provides that this section takes effect on July 1, 2023. Additionally, it creates s. 501.173, F.S., relating to the use of tracking technology. The amendment prohibits a tracking entity from collecting a consumer's tracking information without the consumer's consent, or from collecting a consumer's tracking information while the collecting technology is not in active use by the consumer without the consumer's consent for continued collection.
The bill provides exceptions to the above prohibitions, and provides that a violation of s. 501.173, F.S., is an unfair and deceptive trade practice, which is actionable under part II of chapter 501, F.S., and enforced by the Department of Legal Affairs. It also creates s. 501.1735, F.S., relating to the protection of children in online spaces. The bill prohibits an online platform that provides an online service, product, game, or feature likely to be predominantly accessed by children from processing or collecting the personal information of children in particular ways.
SB 262 provides that a violation of s. 501.1735, F.S., is an unfair and deceptive trade practice actionable under part II of chapter 501, F.S., to be enforced by the Department of Legal Affairs. Additionally, the amendment provides that the new provisions explained above do establish a private cause of action.
The bill amends the definition of "targeted advertising" to mean displaying to a consumer an advertisement selected based on personal data obtained from that consumer's activities over time, but does not include an advertisement that is based on the context of a consumer's current search query on the controller's own website or online application, or is directed to a consumer search query on the controller's own website or online application in response to the consumer's request for information or feedback. It provides that the data privacy provisions of the bill do not apply to the processing of personal data solely for measuring or reporting advertising, performance, reach, or frequency.
Additionally, SB 262 clarifies the provisions relating to the opt out of the collection of precise geolocation data, and collection of personal data collected through the operation of a voice recognition feature.
SB 284 Energy revises the vehicle procurement requirements for the state purchasing plan. Specifically, the bill requires vehicles of a given use class to be selected for procurement based on the lowest lifetime ownership costs, including costs for operations, maintenance, and fuel when fuel economy data is available, rather than on the greatest fuel efficiency available, when fuel economy data is available. The current exemption to this requirement is continued for emergency response vehicles.
The bill requires, when available, the use of ethanol and biodiesel blended fuels and natural gas fuel when a state agency purchases a vehicle with an internal combustion engine.
The bill requires the Department of Management Services to make recommendations before July 1, 2024, regarding the procurement of electric vehicles and natural gas fuel vehicles and other vehicles powered by renewable energy. The recommendations must include best practices for integrating these vehicles into existing fleets.
HB 425 Transportation addresses matters related to transportation. Specifically, the bill:
- Expands Florida's existing Move Over Law to include disabled motor vehicles.
- Requires the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish standards by which the State Highway System will be graded according to their compatibility with the operation of autonomous vehicles.
- Revises provisions regarding airport land use compatibility zoning regulations.
- Codifies the Implementing Solutions from Transportation Research and Evaluating Emerging Technologies (I-STREET) Living Lab within the University of Florida.
- Provides that a producer of construction aggregates (gravel, sand, etc.) may not represent that an aggregate is certified for use unless such aggregate complies with DOT rules.
- Requires a local governmental entity to accept electronic proof of delivery for construction materials.
- Requires DOT contracts for bridge work over navigable waters to require marine general liability insurance in an amount determined by DOT.
- Requires DOT to implement strategies to reduce project costs and authorizes DOT to share a portion of construction cost savings with certain persons.
- Provides that certain stipends paid by DOT which are contained in DOT's legislatively-approved work program are not subject to additional specified documentation and notification requirements.
- Authorizes a contractor who desires to bid exclusively on construction contracts with proposed budget estimates of $2 million or less (increased from $1 million) to submit reviewed, rather than audited, financial statements.
- Authorizes an applicant for a contractor certificate of qualification to request to keep an existing certificate and current maximum capacity rating in place until expiration of the existing certificate.
- Repeals a public records exemption for documents that reveal the identity of a person who has requested or obtained a bid package, plan, or specifications pertaining to any project to be let by DOT.
- Increases the maximum size of modular newspaper racks on specified rights-of-way.
- Authorizes DOT to request legislative approval of a proposed turnpike project regardless of how complete the project's design phase is.
- Revises various provisions relating to Metropolitan Planning Organizations and the Metropolitan Planning Organization Advisory
- Requires DOT to make $20 million available annually for five years to enhance the movement and storage of construction aggregate and authorizes DOT to expend $5 million for workforce development.
- Removes the requirement that railroad police be appointed by the Governor and revises powers of railroad police.
HB 645 Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act amends s. 330.41, F.S., to expand the definition of "critical infrastructure facility" to include:
- A water intake structure, water treatment facility, wastewater treatment plant, or pump station; A liquid natural gas or propane gas terminal or storage facility, regardless of capacity;
- A refinery;
- A gas processing plant including a plant used in the processing, treatment, or fractionation of natural gas;
- A seaport;
- An inland port or other facility serving as a point of intermodal transfer of freight; An airport;
- A spaceport territory;
- Certain military installations and armory;
- A dam or other structures such as locks, floodgates, or dikes, which are designed to maintain or control the level of navigable waterways; and
- A critical infrastructure facility as defined in s. 692.201, F.S., as created by HB 1355 (2023) or by similar legislation adopted in the same legislative session.
The bill removes the requirement that a person or governmental entity seeking to restrict or limit the operation of drones in close proximity to infrastructure or facilities must apply to the Federal Aviation Administration for such designation under s. 2209 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016. The bill also removes the provision allowing a drone operating in transit for commercial purposes to operate over a critical infrastructure facility.
HB 645 sunsets the definition of "critical infrastructure facility," consistent with the sunset under current law of criminal penalties, once a process pursuant to s. 2209 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 becomes effective.
HB 1191 Use of Phosphogypsum authorizes the Department of Transportation (DOT) to undertake demonstration projects using PG from phosphate production in road construction aggregate material.
The bill requires DOT to conduct a study to evaluate the suitability of using PG as a construction aggregate material. DOT may consider any prior or ongoing studies of PG's road suitability in the fulfillment of this duty. The study and a determination of suitability must be completed by April 1, 2024. Upon DOT's determination of suitability, PG from phosphate production may be used as a construction aggregate material in accordance with the conditions of the EPA's approval for the use.
The bill provides that PG used in accordance with an allowed use expressly specified in EPA regulations, or pursuant to an express EPA approval for the specific use, is not solid waste and is an allowed use in this state. The bill also provides that PG may be placed in a PG stack permitted by the Department of Environmental Protection.
HB 1397 Regional Transportation Planning provides that the Legislature finds, given Florida's rapid population growth, that the effective coordination of transportation planning and service delivery, particularly regional transportation mobility, is critical to the safe and efficient development, management, operation, and maintenance of public transit systems. The bill provides legislative intent to explore transformative changes to the policy management structure of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) to achieve organizational efficiencies with the goal of streamlining decision making, improving transparency, and enhancing the effectiveness of local and regional public transit service delivery.
The bill requires the Department of Transportation (DOT), or its consultant, to conduct a study reviewing specified aspects of HART's organizational structure and operation and requires DOT to submit a report detailing the results of the study to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by January 1, 2024.
HB 5303 Biomedical Research conforms law to the 2023-2024 General Appropriations Act. The bill:
- Expands those cancer centers eligible for funding pursuant to the Casey DeSantis Cancer Research Program (DeSantis program) to include cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute as a comprehensive cancer center with at least one geographic site in Florida.
- Exempts $37,771,257 from the annual allocation fraction calculation for participating cancer centers in the DeSantis program and distributes those funds to participating cancers centers proportionately as determined by the calculation.
- Clarifies that allocation factors used in the calculation are based on activities taking place in the state.
- Eliminates authorization for the endowed research chair in the Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program.
HB 7063 Tax Package
Short-Term Broad-Based Sales Tax Holidays
Establishes Two Back-to-School Sales Tax Holidays The legislation creates two, 14-day "back-to-school" sales tax holidays from July 24-August 6, 2023, and January 1 - January 14, 2024, for clothing, footwear, and backpacks costing $100 or less, school supplies and learning aids costing $50 or less, and personal computers or computer related accessories, including non-recreational software, costing $1,500 or less.
Establishes Two-Week 2023 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holidays The legislation creates two 14-day "disaster preparedness" sales tax holidays from May 27, 2023 - June 9, 2023, and August 26, 2023, -- September 8, 2023, for disaster preparedness supplies. Some examples of tax-free items include: flashlights and lanterns costing $40 or less; reusable ice costing $20 or less; radios costing $50 or less; tarps and ground anchors or tie down kits costing $100 or less; coolers and portable power banks costing $60 or less; batteries and fuel tanks costing $50 or less; smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors costing $70 or less; and generators costing $3,000 or less. The holiday also includes a number of items related to the safe evacuation of household pets. Common household consumable items that may helpful with disaster cleanup are also included. For example, laundry detergent, toilet paper and paper towels, soap, sunscreen, and various household cleaning products, with a sales price of $30 or less.
Expands Freedom Week to Freedom Summer, a 3-month Sales Tax Holiday on Recreational Items From May 29 - September 4, 2023, purchases of admissions to music, sporting, and cultural events; tickets to movies and museums; single admission or season tickets to theatre and dance performances; state park admission and annual passes; and use of fitness facilities will be tax free. Tickets, memberships and passes, purchased during this time for use from May 29 - December 31, 2023, are tax free.
The Freedom Summer Sales Tax Holiday also applies to sales of certain boating and water activity equipment and supplies, camping equipment and supplies, fishing equipment and supplies, general outdoor supplies (including sunglasses, sunscreen, and grills), residential pool chemicals, supplies and parts, and children's toys and athletic equipment.
Establishes the 2023 Skilled Worker Tools Sales Tax Holiday
The legislation creates a seven-day sales tax holiday from September 28, 2023, for certain tools used by skilled trade workers. Tax-free items include certain hand and power tools, work boots, safety equipment, shop lights, toolboxes and belts, and plumbing and electrical equipment.
Sales Tax Free Gas Stoves, and Energy Efficient Appliances
The bill creates a one-year sales tax exemption from July 1, 2023 - June 30, 2024, on the retail sale of indoor gas ranges and stoves and certain energy efficient appliances including refrigerator/freezer units selling for $4,500 or less, and water heaters, washers or dryers selling for $1,500 or less.
Freezes Local Cell Phone and TV Tax The bill freezes local communications services tax rates for three years. The local communications services tax rate in effect on January 1, 2023, may not be increased before January 1, 2026.
Permanent Broad-Based Sales Tax Relief
Baby and Toddler Products The bill creates a permanent sales tax exemption on the retail sale of baby and toddler diapers, wipes, clothing, shoes, strollers, cribs and many other baby and toddler safety items. This includes baby and toddler clothing sized accordingly for children age five or younger. Florida is home to more than one million children under age five and welcomes nearly 600 newborns each day. In the first year of a child's life, parents can expect to use approximately 3,000 diapers, or an average of eight diapers per day.
Hygiene Products The bill creates a permanent tax exemption on the retail sale of adult diapers and incontinence products and oral hygiene products, including toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss.
Agricultural Fencing The bill creates a permanent sales tax exemption on materials used to construct or repair permanent or temporary fencing used to contain, confine, or process cattle, including gates and energized fencing systems, used in agricultural operations on lands classified as agricultural lands.
Renewable Natural Gas Machinery and Equipment
The bill creates a permanent sales tax exemption on the purchase of machinery and equipment that is used in the production, storage, transportation, compression, or blending of renewable natural gas that is used as transportation fuel or for electric generation or is of a quality capable of being injected into a natural gas pipeline.
Firearm Safety Devices The bill creates a permanent tax exemption on the retail sale of gun safes and trigger locks, and other devices designed for the safe storage of firearms, or designed to prevent the firearm from being operated without deactivating a secondary safety device by using a key or combination.
Property Tax Relief
- Allows disabled veterans and surviving spouses who are entitled to complete homestead exemptions to receive refunds of taxes they had to pay in the year they purchase a homestead.
- Clarifies that disabled veterans and surviving spouses may transfer their homestead exemptions to another property.
- Expands the exemption for surviving spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty to include spouses of federal law enforcement officers.
- Prohibits the levy of special assessments on agricultural lands.
- Clarifies that parsonages, burial grounds, and tombs owned by houses of worship are used for religious purposes, and are therefore exempt.
- Extends the educational property exemption to certain schools who lease property.
- Makes clarifying changes to Florida's automatic property tax refund process for properties that are damaged and become
Business Tax Relief
- Cuts the business rent tax from 5.5% to 4.5% beginning in December 2023.
- Creates a tax credit for investment in equipment to produce breast milk fortifiers.
- Increases the annual Brownfield Rehabilitation program cap by $25 million.
- Increases the annual credit limit for the Strong Families Tax Credit from $10 million to $20 million to help provide more child welfare services in Florida communities.
- Creates a tax credit for installing graywater treatment systems on residential property.
Tax Relief for Workforce Housing
Senate Bill 102, Housing, by Senator Alexis Calatayud (R-Miami), was signed into law earlier by Governor Ron DeSantis. The legislation, entitled the Live Local Act, contains the comprehensive designed to increase the availability of attainable housing options for Florida workers who seek to live in the communities they serve. The Live Local Act includes several tax relief measures related to affordable housing, including among others:
- Creates New Partnership with Businesses to Help Fund Workforce Housing A new corporate tax donation program gives businesses the opportunity to contribute directly to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation to benefit the SAIL program instead of paying portions of their corporate and insurance premium taxes, up to a total of $100 million per year.
- Increases Community Contribution Tax Credit Program Limits The bill increases the annual amount of available tax credits to $25 million (from $14.5 million), further encouraging Florida businesses to make donations towards community development and housing projects for low-income persons.
- Creates Sales Tax Refund for Building Materials The bill provides for a refund of up to $5,000 per unit for sales tax paid on building materials for developments financed through the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, providing additional capacity for loans in the
- Creates "Missing Middle" Property Tax Exemption To encourage new or recently constructed and substantially rehabilitated developments to offer attainable units, the bill creates a tax exemption for these developments that set aside at least 70 units for affordable housing. Tax exemptions are targeted to moderate- and low-income brackets:
- Up to 80% AMI unit = 100% tax exemption for the unit (approximate income level of $62,650 for a family of four)
- 81% up to 120% AMI unit = 75% tax exemption for the unit (approximate income level of $62,651 to $94,000 for a family of four) In addition to meeting affordable housing requirements (rent and income limits), rent for the set aside units must be at least 10% below market rate.
*Bill summaries provided by House and Senate staff analyses
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