Volusia, Flagler lawmakers ready for session's start

Bills tackle business tax help, assistance fraud, more

 

Published: Saturday, January 9, 2016 at 4:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 9, 2016 at 7:11 p.m.

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Dorothy Hukill

Facts

Local legislators

Senate District 7

Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine

Tallahassee office: 850-487-5006

District office: 386-446-7610

Email: [email protected]

 

Senate District 14

Dorothy Hukill , R-Port Orange

Tallahassee office: 850-487-5008

District office: 386-304-7630

Email: [email protected] flsenate.gov

 

Senate District 9

Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs

Tallahassee office: 850-487-5010

District office: 407-262-7578

Email: [email protected]

 

House District 24

Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast

Tallahassee office: 850-717-5024

District office: 386-446-7644

Email: [email protected]

 

House District 25

Rep. Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach

Tallahassee office: 850-717-5025

District office: 386-304-5511

Email: [email protected]

 

House District 26

Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach

Tallahassee office: 850-717-5026

District office: 386-239-6202

Email: dwayne.taylor @myfloridahouse.gov

 

House District 27

Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona

Tallahassee office: 850-717-5027

District office: 386-575-0387

Email: [email protected]

 

When the House and Senate convene Tuesday, much of the effort will be put toward how the state should spend its excess revenue, estimated to be at least $635 million. The governor's office estimates $1.3 billion in new revenue.

Many of the nearly 2,300 bills propose to spend or redirect that money, much of it back to taxpayers. One introduced by Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, will be watched closely by local employers including Kermit's Key West Key Lime production facility and showroom, which employs 15 people full-time making candies, sauces and other products in DeLand.

Kevin Solari, the accounting and finance director, said he is hoping Hukill's bill will make permanent a sales tax exemption on manufacturing equipment. Hukill had earlier championed a similar bill that exempted the tax for manufacturers for a three-year period, ending in 2017.

Her latest bill, which will be heard in the Commerce & Tourism Committee on Monday, will cost taxpayers an estimated $14 million annually, according to an analysis. Hukill and others argue it's a cost worth bearing.

"We have a lot of small manufacturers in Volusia County," Hukill said. "Most of their money is devoted to equipment. ... They have to update it constantly."

Solari said the temporary exemption has already helped.

"Last year we added a walk-in refrigerator unit to give us more storage and give us more production capacity," he said.

It was about a $50,000 investment, and the sales tax exemption saved the business $4,000 or $5,000. "That may not be a lot to some people," he said, "but in a small business, it makes a big difference."

Hukill, who chairs the Finance & Tax Committee, is offering bills that would renew the back-to-school sales tax holiday for 10 days in August, raise the corporate income tax exemption from $50,000 to $75,000, and reduce the state sales tax on commercial business rentals from 6 to 5 percent.

Also among her 22 bills, Hukill is championing financial literacy, both as a requirement for high-school graduation and a program for individuals with developmental disabilities.

"The goal is to create a pathway to economic independence for people with unique abilities," Hukill said. "It's going to help them to navigate federal and state programs and find employment."

Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, said he has a bill that would aid in the prosecution of people engaged in public-assistance fraud. Specifically, it would criminalize the possession of two or more electronic benefits transfer (or EBT) cards or supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) cards in someone else's name.

Hutson said law enforcement officers have found "stacks of EBT cards" during raids for drugs and guns but have not been able to levy charges because possession of the cards is not defined in the statute for trafficking.

Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, has a bill that would require criminal defendants with no-contact orders be notified in writing upon pre-trial release.

In the House, Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach, wants to provide absentee ballots with return-postage-paid envelopes. His bill, filed Friday, does not include a projected cost, but says it will be borne by the originating county elections supervisor's office with reimbursement provided by the state.

"I'm not opposed to it at all," said Ann McFall, Volusia County's supervisor of elections, who is a Republican. "I just need to put it in my budget. It's not a bad idea at all."

McFall said many of the largest counties are already talking about sending absentee voters home with postage-paid envelopes. The county already bears the cost of absentee ballots returned without postage — usually somewhere around $7,000 to $10,000 per election. But she said the majority of absentee voters pay their own postage costs.

Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, is co-sponsoring a bill aimed at supporting expansion of grocery stores in under-served communities of low and moderate incomes. He also said he'll work to support tax cuts, including more relief for people paying the communication-service tax.

"That helps businesses and individuals. It helps people with their TV, landline and cellphone bills, across the board," Santiago said, adding that he is only seeking to cut the portion of the tax that provides revenue to the state, as many cities and counties rely on that revenue.

Rep. Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach, is seeking more transparency from the state with regard to education funding. He has also filed a wide-ranging bill that will, among other things, allow homeowners with local renewable-energy production devices to sell excess power to neighbors.

Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, is entering his first full regular session. He filed a bill that would allow employers participating in "drug-free workplace" programs to conduct more followup drug tests for employees already in assistance programs. The law now allows one test per year for two years. Renner is proposing six tests in the first year, and one per year for four years.