Updated: Mar 17
Legislators also introduced bills to expand eligibility for school choice scholarship programs and end burdensome regulations on professionals
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (March 6, 2020) -- The Florida House of Representatives today passed an historic tax package, with $193.4 million in tax cuts, among several other bills to help keep Florida the best state to live and work.
“I am proud to have passed a tax package that reduces the burden of government while funding necessities and balancing the budget,” said House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes. “Under this House tax relief package, hard-working Floridians can continue to expect a bright future. We look forward to working with the Senate over the next week to bring this pro-taxpayer proposal to the governor’s desk.”
The tax package, HB 7097, passed 97-16 with bipartisan support. It includes:
an Aug. 7 to 9 Back-to-School sales tax holiday that covers clothes, shoes and backpacks $60 or less; school supplies $15 or less; and the first $1,000 of the price of computers, tablets and laptops.
a Disaster Preparedness sales tax holiday from May 29 to June 4 that covers items such as flashlights, radios, batteries, food-storage coolers and portable generators.
Also included is a communications services tax reduction, which will help cut costs for anyone paying for a cellphone, cable or satellite service plan in the state, as well as fuel tax rate cuts for commercial air carriers, leading to savings that can be passed on to consumers. Bill sponsor Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Miami Lakes, made clear that 60 percent of the tax package directly benefits individual Floridians.
“We have made strides every single year to lessen the financial burden on our residents and businesses -- large and small -- to make sure that we keep leading the nation in the economy,” Avila said. “This is a tax package that will benefit every resident, every single business -- large and small -- and it says that in Florida we have predictability, stability. It says that in Florida we prioritize our residents and make sure our businesses can provide jobs to our residents.”
The House tax package also ties water quality to tourism for the first time ever. HB 7097 expands the allowable uses for tourist development tax proceeds in all counties to include public parks and trails and water quality improvement projects.
SCOPE OF PRACTICE
In a hard-won victory for health care access, House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to expand APRN scope of practice on two bills -- among Speaker Oliva’s top priorities. HB 7053 by Rep. Josie Tomkow, R-Polk City, passed 96-10 and HB 607 by Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Okeechobee, passed 94-12.
“With an aging population, hundreds of people moving to Florida every day and the worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the demand for primary care in Florida is constantly growing,” Speaker Oliva said. “Today, the House charted the path to address this need by freeing thousands of experienced, seasoned and advanced medical professionals to join the front lines in providing care for our residents.”
While there are 278 primary care health professional shortage areas across Florida, there are 28,734 active APRNs with graduate degrees, many doctoral, trained and ready to diagnose and treat illness and disease. But physicians -- some of whom benefit from the current structure by charging for required supervision paperwork -- have long fought expanding APRN scope.
“What we seek to accomplish with this bill is enhanced access to health care. We seek to improve the health outcomes of people in the state of Florida. We hope to achieve long-term health care savings because of good primary preventative health care,” Pigman, an emergency-medicine physician, said in his closing remarks. “And I do this because I want to remove a shameful blemish on the profession of medicine and finally recognize another profession for the skills, courage and education they have.”
Under current law, APRNs remain limited because of a physician supervision requirement. Studies show allowing certified nurse practitioners to work without physician supervision can improve health outcomes. The bill is headed to the Senate for its consideration.
HB 1193 sponsor Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, introduced the bill, which deregulates certain professions to help people find gainful employment, steady wages and economic mobility.
Regulated industries work overtime to convince people that most deregulation has dire consequences. The truth is, workers stand to gain the most from reforms in the bill.
For some professionals – including barbers and cosmetologists – HB 1193 reduces the excessive hours of training required to obtain a license while preserving safety measures. For others in jobs where a license is unnecessary, such as hair braiders or boxing announcers, HB 1193 eliminates the licensing requirement.
The bill was rolled to third reading, and the Florida House will likely vote on it next week.
A significant school choice expansion package, HB 7067, was introduced by bill sponsor Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora. The measure expands eligibility for two school choice scholarship programs and ensures that students who need to renew their scholarships are prioritized.
The Family Empowerment Scholarship provides additional school choice options for working-class families. However, the existing scholarship enrollment cap of 0.25% of the state’s total public school enrollment prohibits many students from participating. HB 7067 increases the scholarship enrollment cap to 1% of the state’s total public school enrollment. It also automatically increases income eligibility if there are a certain number of scholarships remaining after a year.
The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship awards scholarships to students from families with limited financial resources. The bill prioritizes applicants from low-income households and in foster or out-of-home care.
Among other discussions, a strike-all amendment was introduced that requires the following:
the Florida Department of Education to maintain a list of nationally norm-referenced tests that meet industry standards to help schools in the FES and FTC programs satisfy the state’s testing requirements.
scholarship-funding organizations prioritize continued funding for renewal students.
scholarship-funding organizations with lacking funds to notify and refer any student wishing to renew their scholarship to another organization with existing funds.