(The Center Square) – After a two-month pause in transmitting bills approved by Florida lawmakers during their 2020 session, 25 pieces of legislation arrived on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk this week.
Lawmakers approved 207 bills during their 66-day legislative session that adjourned March 19. The session was extended six days because of budget uncertainty as the COVID-19 emergency emerged.
Only a handful of the bills have reached DeSantis’ desk. Of those he received Tuesday, the governor has until June 10 to veto the 19 House and six Senate bills or they go into effect.
• House Bill 969: Approved unanimously by the House and Senate, the measure allocates up to $5 million a year for Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise to develop broadband infrastructure as part of the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) program, a controversial 10-year, $10 billion plan to extend three central and west Florida toll roads.
• Senate Bill 28: Approved unanimously by the House and Senate, the bill pays $2.15 million to Clifford Williams, who was imprisoned wrongfully for almost 43 years.
• House Bill 177: Approved unanimously by the House and Senate, the measure creates the Prescription Drug Donation Repository Program within the Florida Department of Health (DOH) in an effort to save residents millions in prescriptions that go to waste each year by allowing them to be used by low-income people in need.
• Senate Bill 7018: Approved 97-19 in the House and unanimously in the Senate, the bill authorizes a Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) study into constructing emergency staging areas, establishing a “shot clock” for utility infrastructure permits and developing a master plan for electric vehicle charging stations along the state’s highway system.
One of the few bills signed by the governor before the COVID-19 emergency prompted him to defer reviewing adopted legislation – including the state’s $93.2 billion fiscal year 2021 budget that goes into effect July 1 – is a hurricane preparation sales tax holiday, which begins Friday.
Florida lawmakers included the disaster preparation tax holiday in a $47.7 million tax package, House Bill 7097, which was approved by the Senate in a 36-2 vote, by the House in a 104-8 tally and signed by DeSantis on April 8.
The tax package also included a three-day back-to-school tax holiday on school supplies, clothes and computer equipment Aug. 7-9.
The hurricane prep sales tax holiday will save taxpayers an estimated $5.6 million in sales taxes before it expires June 4.
The seven-day disaster preparedness tax holiday allows residents to purchase items in the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s disaster supply kit without paying sales taxes.
Those items include reusable ice packs that cost $10 or less; flashlights and lanterns that cost $20 or less; gasoline and diesel fuel containers that cost $25 or less; coolers and batteries that cost $30 or less; and radios and tarps that cost $50 or less. The biggest items are portable generators that cost $750 or less.
"These programs are needed now more than ever," Florida Retail Federation (FRF) President and CEO Scott Shalley said. "Not only do these important tax-free holidays provide relief to consumers buying necessities, but they will inject a shot of adrenaline into Florida's retail businesses after suffering through the COVID-19 pandemic and forced closures.”
Shalley told the News Service of Florida on Tuesday that retailers such as Lowe’s and Home Depot are offering discounts and other incentives to coincide with the sales tax holiday.
“I think you’re going to see, again, additional incentives from the retailers to encourage sales for disaster preparation,” he said. “You’re going to see an emphasis on sales of batteries, coolers and those sorts of things that help people get prepared now.”