2009 Legislation that passed


Historic City News will highlight selected bills that were past in the 2009 Florida Legislative Session that have an impact on us here in St. Augustine and St. Johns County.

Accident Response Fees
CS/SB 2282 by Sen. Bennett (CS/HB 1043 by Rep. Thompson, N.)

The bill prohibits counties and cities from imposing fees or obtaining reimbursement for costs incurred for services provided by first responders (law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, or paramedics) in response to a motor vehicle accident with the exception of emergency medical transportation fees provided by ground and/or air ambulance services and reimbursement of costs incurred while containing and cleaning hazardous materials spills.

The Revenue Estimating Conference estimates that the bill would have a negative but indeterminate impact on local government revenues. Effective Date: 07/01/09.

Ad Valorem Assessments / Challenges
CS/SB 1006 by Sen. Fasano (CS/CS/HB 521 by Rep. Lopez-Cantera)

This bill provides substantial changes to existing law regarding the valuation assessment of property by property appraisers and the related process for challenging such assessments. A summary of the changes is provided below:

• The property appraiser now has the burden of proving that his/her assessments were performed in accordance with existing law, if this burden is met successfully, the property appraiser and the related assessment will retain a presumption of correctness;

• A taxpayer now has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the related assessment is excessive (The former standard of review was higher and required “clear and convincing evidence”);

• When a property appraiser appeals a Value Adjustment Board (VAB) decision, the property appraiser now has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the assessment established by the VAB is not adequate.

• In VAB or court proceedings challenging the denial of an exemption or assessment classification, the property appraiser no longer has the presumption of correctness and the taxpayer must prove by a preponderance of the evidence the entitlement to the exemption of assessment classification.

Current estimates of negative fiscal impacts to local governments include approximately $157 million in LFY 2010 increasing to $693 million by LFY 2014. Effective Date: Upon becoming a law and shall apply to assessments performed in 2009.

Campaign Finance
SB 216 by Sen. Justice (HB 591 by Rep. Long)

FAC opposed this bill on the grounds that it preempts local government’s spending authority and is unconstitutional by restricting free speech of public officials. This bill prohibits local governments from expending or authorizing any expenditure of public funds for political advertisements or electioneering communications on issues that will go before the electors.

The prohibition does not apply to electioneering communications providing factual information, but the bill also prohibits a person or organization from accepting funds from a local government for political advertisements or electioneering communications. Just as this bill was about to pass in the House, Rep. Plakon amended the bill to include any issue, referendum or constitutional amendment regarding a state issue. This would include issues like the Article V revision or TABOR. None of these prohibitions apply to state officials or state agencies.

Effective Date: 07/01/09.

Consumer Choice and Protection Act/Broadband Internet
CS/CS/SB 2626 by Sen. Haridopolos (CS/CS/HB 1465 by Rep. Weatherford)

The section of this bill that will affect local governments relates to broadband internet service.

This section of SB 2626 was originally filed as SB 2092 by Sen. King and HB 7091 by the Economic Development & Community Affairs Policy Council, Rep. Murzin and Rep. Brise. It encourages the state, in cooperation with local governments, to develop a plan that will bring broadband internet service to unserved or underserved communities, with a particular focus on rural locations. The Department of Management Services (DMS) is authorized to work collaboratively with Enterprise Florida, state agencies, local governments, businesses and community organizations and will establish local technology planning teams that will assess current broadband coverage. DMS will also implement a local broadband internet grant program to assist communities with education, training, access, equipment, and support to libraries, schools, health care providers and community support organizations. This portion of the bill relates to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will set Florida up to 20 receive stimulus dollars through the Rural Broadband Internet program. Effective date: 07/01/09.

Contracted Administrators
SB 252 by Sen. Constantine (CS/HB 1089 by Rep. Kiar)

This bill extends the standards of conduct in the Code of Ethics for public officers and employees to contracted administrators. This means that when a business entity contracts with a local government, the chief administrator, director and employees must adhere to the standards outlined in Chapter 112, F.S., including standards of conduct, financial disclosure, and gifts and honoraria laws. Effective date: 07/01/09.

Fire Rescue Discretionary Sales Surtax
CS/CS/SB 1000 by Sen. Fasano (CS/CS/HB 365 by Rep. Hooper)

This bill authorizes a county to levy by ordinance a discretionary sales surtax of up to 1 percent for emergency fire rescue services and facilities, which shall take effect if the surtax is approved by a majority of the electors of the county voting in a referendum held for that purpose. The bill provides for the distribution of the discretionary surtax proceeds and requires a reduction in ad valorem taxes and non-ad valorem assessments for fire control and emergency rescue services upon the discretionary sales surtax taking effect. Counties that impose two separate discretionary surtaxes without expiration are not eligible to levy this surtax. Effective Date: 07/01/09.

Partial Property Tax Payments
CS/SB 1580 by Sen. Ring

This bill authorizes all tax collectors, at their discretion, to accept partial payments of property taxes, provides for processing fees and notices of taxes due, and directs the tax collector to distribute the partial payment proportionately to applicable taxing districts. Effective Date: 07/01/09.

Property Tax Exemption for Military Personnel
CS/CS/SJR 1302 by Sen. Gardiner (CS/HJR 833 by Rep. Horner)

This bill proposes an amendment to Article VII, section 3 of the State Constitution to provide an additional ad valorem tax exemption on homestead property for each person who:

1. Is a member of the United States military or military reserves, the United States Coast Guard or its reserves, or the Florida National Guard,

2. Receives a homestead exemption provided in Article VII, section 6 of the State Constitution, and

3. Was deployed during the preceding calendar year on active duty outside the continental United States, Alaska, or Hawaii in support of military operations designated by the Legislature divided by the number of days in that year.

The additional exemption would be equal to a percentage of the taxable value of his or her homestead property. The percentage would be calculated as the number of days during the preceding calendar year the person was deployed on active duty.

The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) determined that if this amendment would have been in effect for the SFY 2009 – 2010, the approximate negative fiscal impact to property tax revenues would have been $13 million. This amendment will be placed on the ballot for voter approval in 2010. If approved, the measure will become effective on January 1, 2011.

Public Libraries/Internet Safety Education Program
CS/HB 115 by Rep. Kiar (CS/CS/SB 340 by Sen. Ring)

This bill primarily focuses on reporting requirements for sexual offenders and predators; however, SB 324 by Sen. Crist (HB 233 by Rep. Burgin), relating to public libraries/internet safety, was amended onto this bill. This portion encourages public libraries to adopt an internet safety course for library participants to raise awareness about the dangers of online predators. The bill recommends using a program adopted by the U.S. government sanctioned law enforcement agency that is age appropriate for adults and children. Although this program is not required, all public libraries must report the number of borrowers who complete the education program to the Division of Library and Informational Services. Those libraries that choose to implement this program will receive 10 percent of the total points available when applying for the Library Services and Technology Grant beginning in fiscal year 2011-12.

Reduction in Non-Homestead Value Cap (10% to 5%) & First-time Homebuyer Homestead Exemption
CS/SJR 532 by Sen. Lynn (CS/HB 97 by Rep. Domino)

This bill proposes an amendment to sections 4 and 6, Article VII of the State Constitution that will create the following:

1. An additional homestead exemption for first-time homebuyers (persons who have not owned a principal homestead residence in the previous eight years). The additional homestead exemption will be equal to 25% of the just value of a respective property but no more than $100,000. The amount of the exemption will be reduced each year after the first year by 20% or by an amount equal to the difference between the just value and determined assessed value of the property in a respective year after the first year, whichever is greater. If this amendment is approved by the voters the estimated negative impact on county revenues is approximately $13 million in calendar year 2011 (LFY 2012), $28 million in 2012 (LFY 2013), $44 million in 2013 (LFY 2014), $49 million in 2014 (LFY 2015), and $51 million in 2015 (LFY 2016).

2. A reduction in the limit on the maximum annual increase in the assessed value of nonhomestead property to 5% from 10%. If this amendment is approved by the voters, the estimated negative impact on local government revenues is approximately $78 million in SFY 2012, $144 million in SFY 2013, and $209 million in SFY 2014.

The amendment will be placed on the ballot for voter approval in 2010. If approved, the measures will become effective on January 1, 2011.

Summaries provided courtesy of the Florida Association of Counties – 2009 Final Legislative Report