On Tuesday, March 4th, Florida lawmakers gathered in Tallahassee for the start of the 2014 legislative session. Lawmakers now have 60 days to pass their bills into law. For those of us in South Florida, we want to follow this session not only because it takes place during an election year, but also because several of the “must watch” issues hit close to home:
- Gaming: The Senate is set to propose three separate bills related to gaming, including one that would allow for the creation of two $2 billion resort casinos. The bill would also permit slot machines at dog and horse tracks outside of South Florida.
- Water/Environment: Governor Scott has proposed $130 million in funding for restoration and cleanup of the Everglades. He has requested $30 million of that money be used to help reconstruct a 2.6 mile section of the Tamiami Trail. A bridge would replace that section of the berm on which Tamiami Trail is currently built, so that water north of the road could flow into the Everglades to help preserve water quality.
- Private Flood Insurance: A bill may be proposed that would regulate the offering of private flood insurance to Florida homeowners. The bill would allow flexibility in setting insurance rates, and permit insurers to write standard flood insurance policies that provide the same coverage as that offered under the National Flood Insurance Program. Because of our vulnerability to hurricanes and the flooding that sometimes comes along with those storms, this is a bill for Miami residents to follow.
- Tax and Fee Cuts: Governor Scott has the goal of cutting $500 million or more in state taxes and fees and has gathered some legislative support for several of his proposals, including the repeal of certain vehicle fees. Tax and fee relief could be a boon for South Florida businesses.
- Craft Beer: With the craft beer industry booming in South Florida, it should come as no surprise that bills have been drafted addressing potential issues in beer sales. One bill proposes allowing retail venders to sell beers in 64 ounce containers, called “growlers,” in addition to the already permitted 32 and 128 ounce growlers. The second bill proposes allowing craft brewers to offer beer samplings at licensed establishments, similar to how these establishments currently offer wine and liquor samplings.
Keep in mind that these are not the only bills that could affect South Floridians. There are several others, including those related to concealed weapons, speed light cameras, and tanning salons that we should also keep on our radar.