State Legislative Update
As we entered the 2018 legislative session in January, one of the main priorities of the Florida Legislature was going to be hurricane relief, recovery and preparation for future storms. Any plans House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Lutz) or Senate President Joe Negron (R-Stuart) had about their final legislative session changed when Hurricane Irma tore through Florida, leaving billions of dollars of damage from Key West to Jacksonville.
Unfortunately, we have seen the focus of the session take another negative turn with the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. An estimated 10,000 protestors stormed the Capitol last week, along with hundreds of survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and several hundred more, and filled the Senate Rules Committee Monday afternoon in support of gun control measures such as an assault rifle ban. When the ban on assault rifles failed by a single vote Monday, loud boos and chants rang out across the committee room, causing lawmakers to take a brief recess before order could be restored.
These recent events have caused drastic, unforeseen changes to the state budget and policy objectives. In addition to hurricane relief, hundreds of millions of dollars are now being shifted toward mental health and school safety.
As for Florida Farm Bureau, we continue to work tirelessly to ensure agriculture is included as part of the state’s hurricane relief package and provide opportunities for our state’s farmers and ranchers to receive much-needed sales tax exemptions and regulatory relief to help aid their recovery from Hurricane Irma. Also this week, we are working to place in the agenda SB 672, legislation that would expand the agriculture-restricted truck tag exemption, in the Senate Appropriations Committee – its final committee stop before being eligible to be heard by the full Senate. The House companion, HB 819, has passed all committee stops.
With only one full week remaining before lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn Sine Die, ending the 2018 legislative session, there is much work left to be done. So many issues and bills have taken a back seat to the debate over gun control over the last two weeks. Those bills are dying fast in the Legislature as Friday, March 9 inches closer. Lawmakers must also work toward a compromise on the state budget.
For more detailed information on the 2018 legislative session, you can read AgWatch, our legislative e-newsletter here. If you do not currently receive AgWatch and would like to, you can sign-up here.