Today is Day 43 the 60-day session of the Florida Legislature.

Intangibles tax repeal one step from passage

Published April 18, 2006

A repeal of the state tax on stocks, bonds and other intangible property won approval Monday from the Senate Ways and Means Committee, 12-2.

The measure (SB 714), one of Gov. Jeb Bush's top priorities, now goes to the Senate floor. The full House passed its repeal bill (HB 209) on a 100-20 roll call last month.

Bush has called the tax "stupid" and worse, saying it taxes some retirement savings and entrepreneurship. However, only about 180,000 well-to-do Floridians stand to benefit from its repeal. Savings in federally recognized retirement programs, such as 401 (k) plans, have been exempt. The tax on other holdings has been reduced over the past seven years to a current 50 cents per $1,000, that being assessed only on investments exceeding $370,000 for an individual or $620,000 for a couple.

Democratic Sens. Rod Smith of Gainesville and Les Miller of Tampa cast the dissenting votes.

Buyers would be rewarded for smart energy choices

Consumers could get sales tax rebates on purchases of energy-efficient appliances, and a new commission would be created to recommend a state energy policy under legislation that unanimously cleared the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The bill (SB 888) also would cut red tape for utilities seeking sites for new power plants and lines, provide grants for renewable energy development and offer limited tax incentives for solar energy devices, hydrogen-powered vehicles and two alternative fuels, biodiesel and ethanol.

Consumers would be able to get rebates by mail when they buy energy-efficient appliances at any time, but the bill also would declare a "tax holiday" on such purchases for seven days, Oct. 5-11. There would be no need to apply for a rebate; the tax would be taken off at the cash register.

Eligible products range from light bulbs to air conditioners that meet or exceed energy-saving standards set by the federal government. Only appliances purchased for home use would qualify.

The proposed Energy Commission would be a permanent body to recommend an energy policy and periodically offer updates that take into account new technology, said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs.

A House energy bill (HB 1473) includes the tax holiday but lacks the year-round rebates. The House Fiscal Council discussed the bill Monday but delayed a vote.

Panel debates labeling sex offenders' licenses

Some lawmakers want to put a special mark on a sex offender's driver's license. Others say that's going too far.

The proposal is part of a bill modifying last year's Jessica Lunsford Act, named for a 9-year-old Homosassa girl who was kidnapped and slain, allegedly by a registered sex offender who had briefly worked at her school as a mason's assistant.

Rep. Charles Dean, R-Inverness, sponsor of the bill (HB 7117), said it will help schools identify what kinds of visitors are trying to enter their campuses.

The measure could force registered sexual offenders and predators to obtain licenses or identification cards that carry their conviction number on the bottom corner.

"They are what they are. They have their designation, and they have their day in court," Dean said.

But Rep. Faye Culp, R-Tampa, said the measure will unfairly stigmatize people.

"I don't have a concern about sexual predators," Culp said. But she objects to marking the drivers' licenses of lesser sexual offenders, who might have been convicted for something like urinating in public.

"I think that's wrong to label people with that," Culp said.

Under other propose Lunsford Act changes, all school employees, including subcontractors like vending machine stockers and construction workers, would have to be fingerprinted. And any employee who will have contact with students could have to undergo an advanced background check.

The bill advanced through the House Educations Appropriations Committee Monday, and still must be cleared by the House Justice Council before going to the floor.