Below are updates on what’s happening in Tallahassee, and how that can affect our constituents. Our legislative focuses are listed at the bottom.
May 7, 2022
If you blinked, you may have missed the Legislative Session called to pass a redistricting map for congressional seats and to eliminate special districts.
In a highly contentious scene—with debate interrupted by Rep. Yvonne Hinson’s mic cut off for going over allotted time sparking a sit-in protest of Legislators in the middle of the House floor—a new apportionment of seats was passed by both Chambers.
A lawsuit opposing the maps was filed the next day.
The House passed the plan 68-38, along party lines. The Senate passed the plan 24-15, also along party lines.
In total, Florida added one new Congressional seat, for a total of 28, because of increased population growth in the state.
The new map favors Republican candidates in 20 of the 28 seats, as indicated by the vote totals in each district in the 2020 Presidential race. The previous breakdown was 16 Republicans and 11 Democrats. The new maps are a likely pick-up of 4 seats for the Republicans, having potential national implications for who controls the Speaker’s seat.
The map passed is unusual in two main aspects. One, the map was proposed by the Governor’s office. The power of redistricting lies with the Legislature, with the Governor having veto power (over Congressional maps only). And, two, the map eliminates the current district of Al Lawson, a Black Congressman elected from a minority access seat in a district that stretches from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. In addition, the new maps eliminate the current district of Congresswoman Val Demmings, a Black Congresswoman from Orlando.
The new map is facing legal challenges as a potential violation of the Voting Rights Act, the Fair District Amendment, and charges of an illegal gerrymander.
The bottom line is the legal issues will be resolved in court, potentially at the level of the U.S. Supreme Court, but in the meantime qualifying for congressional candidates runs from noon, Monday, June 13, 2022 through noon, Friday, June 17, 2022 and the courts are unlikely to make a final decision by that date.
SB4-C eliminated special districts created prior to November 5, 1968, with the new measure to take effect June 1, 2023. It also allows the Legislature to create new districts by the effective date, if they see fit.
There are six special districts that meet this definition:
· Hamilton County Development Authority
· Bradford County Development Authority
· The Sunshine Drainage District (Broward County)
· East Point Water and Sewer District (Franklin County)
· Marion County Law Library District
· Reedy Creek Improvement District (Orange County and Osceola County)
The district with the most controversy is the elimination of the Reedy Creek District that is Disney. Reedy Creek essentially allows Disney to tax themselves at a high rate (higher than local governments are allowed) and plan, pay for, and maintain their own infrastructure. It is a unique arrangement provided only to Disney that was negotiated as part of their decision to locate in Florida.
What happens next is complicated, but also somewhat illustrative of the complicated nature of the Springs County nascent effort. To eliminate or form a new ‘district’, one needs to figure out what to do with the current debt, and in the case of Reedy Creek, the debt is approximately $1-2 billion.
In this case, bond rating companies are issuing warnings and local county governments that contain portions of Reedy Creek are struggling to understand the full implications.
Where this goes eventually, no one really knows. It will be a process, so stay tuned.
SOCIAL MEDIA CARVE-OUT REMOVAL
In a previous bill passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by the Governor, FS 501.2041, it contained an exception for Disney.
In Special Session Bill SB C6, the Legislature removed this carve-out for companies that ‘own theme parks’ from the law that attempts to eliminate social media censorship.
This issue is also in court.
Court hearings, and just when you think it is over—the Governor has called an additional special session to deal with the property insurance market.
The specific charge for the session is “to consider legislation related to property insurance, reinsurance, changes to the Florida Building Code to improve the affordability of property insurance, the Office of Insurance Regulation, civil remedies, and appropriations.“
As we have seen, it is possible for additional issues to creep into the charge, so we will be monitoring.
This special session is to take place May 23—May 27.
WHAT DID WE MISS?
In a session filled with surprises, we may have missed some bills you were interested in or were following. Let us know, and we will include them in a “In Case You Missed It” final update.
2022 Legislative Focus Items
Addressing Critical Infrastructure Needs
Protecting our region’s abundant natural resources is key to our way of life. We are advocates for the water, wastewater and conservation projects that protect our environment and sustainably build capacity for smart growth.
Expanding Our Talent Pipeline
Recruiting and retaining employees is the number one concern of business, and our children are our employees of the future. We support efforts that promote educational success for all, from early learning programs, quality care and enrichment opportunities for children to superior career and technical programming and best-in-the-world higher education institutions.
Supporting Our Community
Local businesses are the backbone of our community, and we stand up for the policies that allow our entrepreneurs to thrive and that improve the physical and mental well-being of all our neighbors.