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Rental car tax option wins easily in House

Today is Day 59 the 60-day session of the Florida Legislature.

By Times staff writers, Associated Press
Published May 4, 2006


The Republican-controlled Florida House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday for an optional $2-a-day tax on rental car users. The tax could only be imposed if voters in a county approved it in a referendum.

The bill went to the Senate for approval before it can head to Gov. Jeb Bush, who has said he has not decided whether to sign it. The tax option is contained in a broad transportation bill (SB 1350) sponsored by Sen. Jim Sebesta, R-St. Petersburg.

The impetus for the local option tax came largely from Orlando lawmakers and business groups seeking more money to reduce gridlock in Central Florida.

The rental car surcharge sparked the most intense debate over taxes this session, with supporters calling it a tool to help counties grapple with growth and opponents criticizing it as a violation of a no-new-taxes pledge many House Republicans have taken.

Lobbyists for travel agents, rental car companies and AAA South failed in an aggressive effort to defeat the bill.

The vote was 103-14. Tampa Bay area lawmakers voting no were Rep. Kim Berfield, R-Clearwater; Frank Farkas, R-St. Petersburg; Rep. Ed Homan, R-Tampa; and Rep. Everett Rice, R-Indian Shores. Rep. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, did not vote. All other area lawmakers voted for the bill. Farkas, Berfield and Justice are vying for a Tampa Bay Senate seat.

-STEVE BOUSQUET

This may reduce some of the noise from airboats

Airboats cruising Florida's waterways will have to be equipped with mufflers if a bill headed to Gov. Jeb Bush is signed into law.

The bill gained final passage in the House on Wednesday.

Airboats have long been a source of contention because of their noise. Automotive-style mufflers will not cut all the noise, airboaters acknowledge, but do make a difference.

Rep. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, and Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, sponsored the legislation.

-ALEX LEARY

Bush gets to declare before-school tax holiday

Back-to-school shopping will again be a little more affordable under a sales tax break the Legislature approved Wednesday and sent to Gov. Jeb Bush. The governor plans to sign it.

The bill (SB 692) exempts books, clothing, wallets and backpacks costing $50 or less from sales taxes for the last nine days of July. School supply items costing $10 or less also will not be taxed.

Shoppers have been enthusiastic about the back-to-school tax holiday since the first one in 1998. It wasn't enacted in 2002 or 2003, but resumed in 2004.

The holiday will cost state and local governments about $45-million in lost taxes.

Dogs at restaurants? It's up to governor now

On a 100-19 vote, the House sent Gov. Jeb Bush a bill that would allow local governments to let restaurants permit dogs to accompany their owners in outdoor dining areas. It's not clear whether Bush plans to sign it.

The measure (SB 1172) would create a three-year pilot program, after which the state would decide whether it was a good idea.

Backers of the bill say many restaurants already let diners bring their dogs onto the patio, so it would just let counties legalize something already widely done.

Allowing the dogs would be up to the city or county, and then even if local restrictions were waived, it would still be up to the restaurant owner as to whether to participate.

Supplying booze to minor could cost your license

If you help a minor obtain an alcoholic drink, you could lose your right to drive under a bill given final approval by the House.

The measure (SB 1322), sponsored by Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, allows the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to revoke or suspend driving rights for adults who supply alcohol to underage drinkers.

Supporters say it will strengthen efforts to curb underage drinking by adding the loss of license to what is already a second-degree misdemeanor carrying a maximum $500 fine. The beverage industry supported the bill.

The bill goes to Gov. Jeb Bush.

Other bills passed

These measures also received final passage Wednesday:

PURPLE HEARTS: The House unanimously passed a bill (SB 122) sponsored by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, to award free tuition at state colleges and universities to veterans who have received a Purple Heart medal for being wounded in combat. Affected veterans must be state residents who lived in Florida during their time of service.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Forcing people to perform labor or holding them in isolation would be a racketeering offense under a bill (SB 250) that also makes it a crime to use a person's passport or debt to force them into labor. And people who can prove they were forced into sexual services, domestic service, restaurant work or any other activity could file lawsuits.

ORGAN DONATION PLATES: Floridians would be able to get a special license plate urging people to "Donate organs." The bill (SB 1450) would set aside the extra money raised for the Transplant Foundation, which provides services for transplant recipients, supports transplant research and works to increase organ donations.

-ASSOCIATED PRESS

[Last modified May 4, 2006, 00:59:16]


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