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    Legislature

    Panel approves hikes in fees, fines

    Starting in October, the state would hit up traffic violators and out-of-state hunters for extra money.

    ©Associated Press
    April 23, 2003


    TALLAHASSEE -- Drivers should face higher fines for traffic violations and out-of-state hunters should pay more for their licenses, a House panel said Tuesday.

    "I'm going to bring us some money today with this bill," Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, told the Finance and Tax Committee.

    The committee unanimously approved his legislation (CS-HB 189), which would increase the fine for a nonmoving traffic violation by $10 and a moving violation by $25.

    Civil penalties already assessed for traffic infractions vary around the state.

    The measure, which has cleared two other committees, also imposes a $500 fine for criminal offenses, such as reckless or drunken driving or leaving the scene of an accident. Drivers would have to pay an extra $50 to get a suspended or revoked license reinstated.

    The higher fines, which would be imposed starting in October, would raise an estimated $59-million in the fiscal year that starts in July. The revenue expected annually after that would climb to $118-million.

    A similar Senate bill (SB 1456) was unanimously approved Tuesday in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

    Another bill approved Tuesday in the House Finance and Tax Committee would increase license fees for out-of-state hunters.

    Rep. Dennis Baxley, the sponsor, said some of the fees have not been changed in decades. The bill would raise 10-day hunting licenses for nonresidents from $20 to $45 and annual turkey permits for nonresidents from $5 to $100.

    "These user fee adjustments are long overdue," Baxley, R-Ocala, said.

    Rep. Nan Rich, D-Weston, said some of the Democrats were "having a problem with consistency," a reference to the insistence of Republican leaders in the House that Florida should "live within its means" and doesn't have to find more money to pay for programs and services.

    Brown, R-DeFuniak Springs, said he had "no problem at all" with making it more expensive for people from other states to hunt in Florida.

    The panel approved the bill (CS-HB 1063) 23-1. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Lauderdale, cast the dissenting vote. An identical Senate bill (CS-SB 372) is awaiting floor action.

    The House committee also approved a bill that would let voters in the Keys and other areas identified as being of "critical state concern" to approve a fee on the sale of homes above $250,000.

    Other areas include the Green Swamp in central Florida, Big Cypress Swamp in South Florida and the city of Apalachicola in the Panhandle.

    The fee would be 1 percent of the sale price. Homes selling for more than $2-million would incur a 2 percent fee and the extra funding could be used for sewer and water projects, affordable housing and environmental land.

    The committee approved the bill on a vote of 23-1 with Johnson casting the dissenting vote.

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