TALLAHASSEE -- A proposed state constitutional amendment providing property tax relief is awaiting a floor vote in the Florida House.
The measure (HJR 381), though, was on hold Friday as the chamber focused on other legislation.
It would give a tax break to owners of businesses and other property not covered by the existing Save Our Homes Amendment.
That amendment limits annual assessment increases on primary homes, known as homesteads, to no more than 3 percent.
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Another amendment voters adopted in 2008 set a 10 percent limit for non-homestead property. The new proposal would drop that to 5 percent.
Other provisions would do away with the “recapture rule” that increases assessments when property values drop and give an additional exemption to home buyers who haven’t owned a house in three years.
Senate expands state’s child pornography law
The Florida Senate voted to extend the state’s anti-child pornography law to include intentionally looking at such images even if one does not download them.
The bill (SB 846) was approved 39-0 on Friday. A similar bill (HB 595) is in the House.
It requires proof that someone looked at more than one image or movie to protect those who may accidentally come across such material on the Internet.
Bill opposes federal health care overhaul
The Republican-controlled state House has passed a bill that would prohibit Floridians from being required to purchase health insurance.
The measure (HB 1193) approved on a largely party line 81-34 vote Friday would put Florida in direct conflict with the federal health care overhaul.
The federal law will require most people eventually to have insurance coverage. Legal experts say federal laws trump state legislation.
All Republicans voted for the bill. All but one Democrat, Rep. Leonard Bembry of Greenville in the Panhandle, voted against it.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where identical legislation (SB 1754) is set for a vote next week,
The Senate in March also passed a proposed state constitutional amendment (SJR 2) with a similar ban. It’s awaiting a floor vote in the House.
House votes to make ‘bath salts’ illegal
The possession or sale of a designer drug known as MDVP or “bath salts” would remain illegal in Florida under a bill passed in the state House.
Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a temporary emergency order in January that banned the substance.
The chamber unanimously sent the bill (HB 1039) to the Senate where similar legislation (SB 1886) is awaiting a vote.
Officials say the complex drug was sold at malls, head shops, convenience stores and other retail outlets, often near displays of energy drinks.
It can be snorted like cocaine, smoked or injected.
The drug has been likened to LSD and can produce hallucinations, severe paranoia, seizures and aggression..
The bill provides for a maximum penalty of five years in prison for possession.
Senate votes to expand voucher program
The state Senate has agreed with the House of Representatives to expand Florida’s school voucher program for students with disabilities.
The Senate approved the House’s version of the bill (HB 1329) on Friday. The House approved it the day before. It now goes to Gov. Rick Scott.
The McKay Scholarship Program provides public funds to 21,000 students with physical and learning disabilities so they can attend private schools. School districts would lose basic funding for each voucher student but not money spent on accommodating their disabilities.
The new measure adds children with lesser disabilities such as asthma and allergies.
Senate passes bill on greyhound racing
The Florida Senate has approved a measure ending the requirement that greyhound-dog tracks continue to offer live racing if they want to keep card tables and other betting games.
The bill (HB 1145) was already passed by the House and was approved by senators with changes 25-14 on Friday. It goes back to the House.
Supporters of the bill said it was not intended to end dog racing but to allow financially-struggling tracks to stay open with other betting options. They said that will help save jobs.
But opponents said the also-struggling horse-racing industry wants the same relief next year and such moves will result in an overall expansion of gambling.
House votes to lower ‘sexting’ penalties
“Sexting” penalties would be reduced for minors by a bill that has cleared the Florida House.
Electronically sending sexually explicit photos or videos of oneself generally is known as sexting. Under existing law it can result in minors being convicted on child pornography charges and being required to register as a sex offender.
The bill (HB 75) that passed the House on Friday would make a first violation a non-criminal office, a second a misdemeanor and a third a felony.
It now goes to the Senate where a similar measure (SB 888) was waiting for a floor vote.
The bill also would allow a minor who gets such an image to report it to police, parents or teachers without being charged with receiving or transmitting child pornography.
Senate votes to keep death videos private
The Florida Senate has approved a bill that would exempt photos, videos and audio recordings of deaths from the state’s public records law.
The 34-4 vote means the bill (HB 411, substituted for SB 416) goes to Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s desk for his signature. The House passed a similar measure. A two-thirds vote was required to create an exemption to the state’s public records law.
The pictures, videos or sounds covered by the exemption could be viewed or heard only by family members of the deceased without a court order.
Video was released in 2006 showing juvenile boot-camp guards in north Florida beating 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson. He later died and the video brought national attention to Florida’s boot camps. They were eventually closed.
House sharply divided over fire alarms
The most divisive issue in the Florida House this year isn’t abortion, guns, illegal immigration, or taxes. It’s fire alarms.
In the session’s closest roll call, the House voted 59-55 to kill a provision that would have allowed manual alarms to be removed from certain condominium buildings under four stories.
The bi-partisan vote adopted an amendment Republican Rep. Ed Hooper, a retired firefighter from Clearwater, offered to a condo regulation bill (HB 1195).
The revised bill goes to the Senate, where a similar bill (SB 530) is awaiting a floor vote. The Senate bill’s fire alarm provision is identical to Hooper’s amendment.
Senate passes bill on police lineups
A bill requiring lineups to be run by an officer who doesn’t know who the suspect is has been approved by the Florida Senate.
The bill (SB 1206) was approved 34-5 on Friday and sent to the House. It also requires the person organizing the lineup to not be involved in the investigation and orders safeguards for photo lineups.
Bill sponsor Joe Negron is a member of the state’s Innocence Commission. The Republican state senator from Stuart says the measure will help prevent the convicting of innocent people.
But state Sen. Steve Oelrich said he opposed the bill because it interferes with police work and sends a message that lawmakers don’t trust police and deputies.
School nutrition bill passed by Senate
The Florida Senate has approved a proposal from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to take over school food and nutrition programs from the State Board of Education.
Senators passed the Healthy Schools for Healthy Lives Act (SB 1312) unanimously on Friday. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the move will bring more fresh and wholesome foods to Florida’s school cafeterias.
Senate: No handcuffs during jailhouse births
Women giving birth in a Florida prison or county jail will not be handcuffed or otherwise restrained under a bill approved by the Florida Senate.
Senators passed the Healthy Pregnancies for Incarcerated Women Act (SB 1086) by a vote of 39-0 on Friday. A similar bill (HB 779) is in the House.
The bill does allow pregnant women to be physically restrained if they’re shown to be a security risk.
A woman who believes she was held in violation of the act can file a grievance within one year.
Florida bill would help private school athletes
Certain private school students could play sports at public schools under a bill that has now passed both the Florida House and Senate.
The bill (HB 797) won unanimous approval by the Senate on Friday after a unanimous yes vote by the House on Thursday. It now goes to Gov. Scott.
The measure applies only to students whose private schools don’t offer the sport they want to play. Students also must attend private schools that don’t belong to the Florida High School Athletic Association and could only play at the public school that is zoned for their home.
The state already has tried the concept on an experimental basis in three counties. Only 23 students participated in the last two school years but no problems were reported.
Senate president decides they will not meet today
Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos now says his chamber will not meet this Saturday.
Haridopolos had told reporters on Thursday that senators would meet on the weekend to take up confirmation votes of nominees and “some other cleanup.” Weekend meetings are unusual for the state legislature.
But at the end of Friday’s session, he told the chamber there would not be a Saturday floor meeting. He did say that work on the state budget would continue over the weekend.
-- Associated Press