With 10 days left in the 2007 Legislative Session, the House is all but finished with committee meetings. They only have one more scheduled for tomorrow (a council meeting) and the rest of the calendar will be dedicated to Sessions on the floor.
Among the bills on third reading, awaiting final passage is HB 1003 by Rep. Joe Pickens, a Top Ten Amusing Bills for 2007, that would allow law enforcement to drive golf carts on public streets; I don’t believe they are planning a The Villages 911 show, however.
On today’s Special Order Calendar are:
HB 1325 by Rep. Don Davis, which revises entertainment industry financial incentive program to provide corporate income tax & sales & use tax credits to qualified entertainment entities rather than reimbursements from appropriations; this will help bring more movie and television projects to Florida;
SB 426 by Sen. Burt Saunders, another Amusing Bill, has passed the Senate and is in the House; the bill will prohibit cover bands from implying or inferring a relationship to another band; and
HB 215 by Rep. Marti Coley, which creates the Back to School Sales Tax Holiday from August 4 through August 13, 2007; most books, clothing, and school supplies will be exempt from sales tax.
The Senate has a full day of only committee meetings today, the last committee meetings scheduled this Session.
Students from Hillsborough County will have a bill on the Education PreK-12 Appropriations Committee agenda: SB 2458 by Sen. Victor Crist, part of the It Oughta Be a Law program, would give financial incentives for businesses to provide internships to high school students.
The Big Cable-versus-Big Telephone bill, SB 998 by Sen. Mike Bennett, will be heard in the General Government Appropriations Committee. That Committee will hear two bills on gambling: SB 2434 by Sen. Steven Geller, which would allow video lottery terminals at parimutuel facilities and a proposed committee substitute combining SB 752 by Sen. Geller and SB 1192 by Sen. Mike Fasano, which would allow video poker machines at parimutuel cardrooms but require that tournaments be conducted using chips (which have no cash value). Finally, the committee will hear SB 2082 by Sen. Mike Benett, which would “streamline” the process for obtaining permits to develop wetlands — a bill Governor Charlie Crist has already said he would veto.
In the Higher Education Appropriations Committee, Sen. Steven Oelrich has convinced Chairwoman Sen. Evelyn Lynn to hear SB 1710, which as-filed would have allowed a university to charge an additional fee to improve undergraduate teaching and support. The University of Florida wants to charge a $500 per semester fee to all students to be used to supplement their operating budget, ostensibly to hire more and better faculty. Sen. Lynn did not want to hear the bill because of some fiscal concerns, so Sen. Oelrich has offered a “strike-all” amendment to allow other schools to raise tuition. It also removes the dollar amount, allowing the Board of Governors to set a maximum differential of 40% for “Level 1” research schools and 30% for “Level 2” schools – while Level 1 must be 30% higher than Level 2 schools. It also provides a cap on the annual increase and it exempts students on a Prepaid program from the differential tuition, among other limitations.
The Transportation and Economic Development Committee will hear SB 960 by Sen. Lee Constantine, which changes the date of the Presidential Preference Primary to the last Tuesday in January (January 29, 2008) and requires all counties to switch to an optical scan system for voting. (The bill provides some funds for counties to buy new equipment, but requires counties who want help to essentially give their touch screen systems to the state for the state to sell. Hillsborough County, for example, would need about $2 million to buy new equipment, but get only about $400,000 from the state assistance program. The County could probably get much more than $400,000 by selling its equipment on its own.) The House passed its presidential preference primary bill earlier this year without the optical scan equipment provision; that bill, HB 537 by Rep. David Rivera, also sets the date as the first Tuesday in February or one week after the New Hampshire primary, whichever is first.