What Did the 2009 Legislature Accomplish?
A look at what lawmakers did — and didn’t — accomplish for business during the 2009 session.
The Shakeout A look at what lawmakers did — and didn’t — accomplish for business during the 2009 session.
David Daniel’s wish for the 2009 legislative session was that state lawmakers would do no harm to Florida’s businesses.
"I think they succeeded," Daniel, vice president of governmental affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, reflected only weeks after the Legislature adjourned in May. "This was a session about tough choices. They did a yeoman’s job … and there was more focus on doing it right."
During the 10-week meeting (nine weeks of regular session and a one-week extension) the primary focus remained on how to grapple with a floundering economy and the loss of billions in tax revenues needed to feed the state budget. Lawmakers opted to rely on increased fees, Indian gaming and a $1-hike in the cigarette tax to balance spending, but shied away from putting more taxes on business or special interests to fill the budget gap.
"We killed a number of onerous tax proposals that would have hurt business and Florida’s economy," said Barney Bishop, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida.
"Overall, it was a good session for the business community."
Here’s a glimpse at a handful of key business issues:
PROPERTY TAXES Lawmakers heeded the call of business interests and second homeowners, sending a proposed constitutional amendment to the November 2010 ballot that would lower the cap on annual property assessment increases from the current 10 percent down to 5 percent. (Primary homes would retain the 3 percent Save Our Homes cap guaranteed by the constitution.) A separate bill was passed making it easier for all home and commercial property owners to challenge increases in property assessments for tax purposes.
CORPORATE TAXES Lawmakers closed a loophole that allows corporations to avoid paying taxes on real estate transactions.
SALES TAXES The Legislature shied away from enforcing collection of state sales tax on Internet purchases. It is estimated the state could be losing between $1 billion and $3 billion a year from untaxed sales of goods bought online — even though state law requires Florida residents to pay the tax. Advocates of collecting the tax contend it will help Florida’s "brick and mortar" businesses by encouraging people to patronize their hometown stores.
TAX INCENTIVES Because it was a tight budget year, lawmakers did not approve any new incentives to lure new business to Florida or to help existing businesses expand.
WORKER COMPENSATION Attorneys who represent injured workers will have their fees capped. The legislation negates a Supreme Court ruling last fall that threw out the cap.
HURRICANE INSURANCE The more than 1 million customers of Citizens Property Insurance Co., the state-backed insurer of last resort, could see their annual premiums jump by an average of 10 percent. (This would affect about 30,000 businesses.) The aim is to beef up reserves to help offset losses from a major hurricane. Citizens has about $3 billion in the bank but faces a potential $485 billion exposure from storm-related losses. All insurance customers in the state would have to pick up the financial slack if a hurricane hits and Citizens doesn’t have enough money in the bank to pay its claims. When enough money is finally banked away, the premium increases will stop.
ENERGY Proposals to allow oil drilling within three miles of the state’s coast, toughen emission standards for new cars and require that 20 percent of the state’s energy come from clean and renewable energy by 2020 (a top priority of Gov. Charlie Crist) were defeated.
GROWTH MANAGEMENT Heavily populated areas will be exempt from having to prove enough roads exist to handle the demands of new housing projects and large urban area development will no longer have to undergo state review, making it easier to develop.
BUSINESS REGISTRATION Businesses that buy precious metals and jewelry that are delivered by mail will have to register with the state, keep records and take photos so that law enforcement can check to make sure none of it is stolen property.