Session snapshot

Published March 17, 2007


Former House Speaker Allan Bense was chosen Friday to chair a panel that will look at a broad range of issues related to state taxes and make recommendations for proposed constitutional amendments. Former Senate President Jim Scott was selected as the vice chairman of the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission. The commission met for the first time Friday for organizational purposes, and the two dozen members on hand were formally sworn in to their new responsibilities by Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince. Bense told his colleagues that he has no agenda but wanted widespread public testimony before the panel's May 4, 2008, deadline to place proposed amendments on tax and budget matters on the November 2008 ballot. "We should be prepared to do some work," he said. Voters amended the Florida Constitution in 1996 to establish the commission to meet for the first time this year, and then every 20 years thereafter. Gov. Charlie Crist wants the Legislature to put property tax relief on the ballot at a special election this year, but the commission has authority over a broader range of issues.

Education leader bill clears hurdles

Proposed legislation (SB 368) to revert the Commissioner of Education back to an elected Cabinet position has passed through two of the four Senate committees required before it goes to the floor for a full vote, and the House version of the bill (HB 679) is about to get its first airing by a House education committee. The 21st Century Competitiveness committee is scheduled to vote on the proposal next week. The education commissioner used to be an elected post, but voters in 1998 decided to make it an appointed job.

Committee okays cable franchise bill

Telecommunications companies are one step closer to a statewide cable franchise despite objections from local governments, cable companies and some consumer groups. Rep. Trey Traviesa, R-Tampa, successfully pitched his "Consumer Choice Act of 2007" to the House Policy and Budget Council on Friday. It could be up for a floor vote as soon as next week. In addition to allowing phone companies a statewide franchise, the bill would also halt the last phase of telephone company rate hikes set in law in 2003 and make it easier for economically disadvantaged people to receive phone bill discounts.

On the agenda for next week

A compromise over a contentious teacher performance pay program is headed for a floor vote in the Senate next week after the legislation received final committee approval this week. The agreement also received endorsements from critics of the existing Special Teachers are Rewarded, or STAR, program, including Florida's statewide teachers union, before the Prekindergarten-12 Education Appropriations Committee voted unanimously for the Senate version (SB 1226).

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