5 things to watch Thursday at the Florida Legislature

March 13, 2014 

Florida legislators will start piecing together the 2014-15 state budget today, after getting fresh estimates that give them about $150 million more than they had when session began. The new money could pay for dozens of pending proposals and the House and Senate budget committees will discuss some of them.

Five things to watch:

-- A bill to reduce annual auto tag fees paid by drivers will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The proposal, SB 156 by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, would take effect Sept. 1 and would save most Florida drivers $25 a year. It is expected to reduce state revenues by an estimated $237 million.

-- The House Gaming Committee takes up the House’s proposal to overhaul the state’s gambling laws and another to authorize a constitutional amendment to shut the door on any gaming expansion without voter approval. Neither bill, HB 1383 and PCB 1401, is expected to get far without some movement from Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe, who are negotiating a gaming agreement.

-- Employers would be banned from requiring access or seeking information about an employee’s social media account, under SB 198 by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, before the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.

-- Gun owners could get their concealed weapons permits at their local tax collectors' office, and the information will be exempt from public record, under SB 546 by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, before the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.

-- Legislators continue their selective tweaking of state ethics laws, this time tightening the rules on when members of state governing boards, such as Citizens Property Insurance and Enterprise Florida, can lobby their former employer. The bill, SB 846 by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, also imposes new lobbying rules on special districts.

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