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The Florida Legislature began its 60-day regular legislative session on January 12. Below are what Gunster’s government affairs law & lobbying team expects to be the top issues for legislators this session.

Individuals with disabilities:

The legislation will expand opportunities for people with disabilities through jobs and education and create a financial literacy program. A top priority for Senate President Andy Gardiner, the Senate’s package for those with developmental disabilities is expected to pass in the first week of the 2016 session.

Water:

A key environmental issue for a number of years, water is a top priority for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. The water bill is expected to pass the first week of session. The water bill includes provisions upsetting to environmental groups.

Gaming:

Issues to watch in Florida's 2016 legislative sessionFlorida’s compact with the Seminole Tribe expired in 2015 and a new agreement has been reached, but it must also be agreed to by the Legislature. The tribe will pay $3 billion to the state in exchange for the ability to offer craps and roulette at their casinos. Other issues negotiated in a new compact could allow slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities, purse pools for thoroughbred racetracks, changes in tax rates for racinos, and put an end to future expansion of gaming in Florida. It is sure to be a hot topic.

Education:

Legislators will likely take up a proposal that allows schools to use standardized tests rather than the Florida Standards Assessments tests, which have been controversial since adoption.

Budget:

Florida will have a budget surplus again this year. Governor Rick Scott recently proposed a $79.3 billion budget for the state, with more tax cuts and economic incentives being key parts of his plan.

Tax Cuts:

Gov. Scott proposed $1 billion in tax cuts this year, including permanently eliminating the tax on manufacturing equipment, a reduction in the commercial lease tax, continuing the popular back-to-school sales tax holiday, and eliminating income taxes on manufacturers and retailers. Legislators remain noncommittal on many of these tax cuts and some say the decision to move forward with the governor’s tax cut plan will depend on the size of the budget surplus.

Incentive Fund:

Gov. Scott requested $250 million for Enterprise Florida with certain requirements for the money, including that deals of $1 million or more require legislative approval, a 10-year maximum length on deals, a 10 percent return on investment, and an end to special waivers. Legislators have been cool to these requests, especially in the Senate.

Health Care:

The cost of providing health care to Floridians will be a major issue again this year, with much of the focus on providing care to the poor and uninsured. There may be attempts to reduce regulations also, such as possibly eliminating the “certificate of need” process for hospitals. Other big issues that could come up during the session include:

  • workers’ compensation reform
  • tort reform
  • gun legislation
  • ride sharing

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See also: Florida regulation and legislation to watch in 2016 (Law360, Dec. 24, 2015); subscription required. For additional information on the 2016 legislative session, specific bills of interest and the potential impacts on your business, or for information on any state agency initiatives, please contact any member of Gunster’s government affairs law & lobbying practice.

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