At a Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce “Eggs & Issues” breakfast, guests listened to Volusia County legislators talk about take-aways of the recently-ended session over coffee, pancakes, grits, fruit and (of course) eggs.
The session held Tuesday morning at the LPGA International Golf Course, was, by all accounts, a success. They passed an $82.3 billion budget and pushed through several bills on a variety of issues. While some didn’t make it through, the lawmakers remained resilient that the bills could pass next time.
Sen. Dorothy Hukill was in charge of financing the tax package, which she said turned out in a way she was pleased with after it was streamlined from $990 million at an early stage to $550 million. Of that, she said $129 million was tax relief they usually do, and the rest was school taxes.
But what she was very pleased with was the part of that package that allowed a permanent extension of a bill she introduced a few years ago to eliminate the sales tax on machinery and equipment used in manufacturing.
“Here in Volusia, we have probably 400 manufacturing employers,” she said. “All over the state we have about 18,000 employers employing over 321,000 people in the manufacturing field. My bill actually helps them to grow their business and spend money more wisely on things they need to spend it on.”
Manufacturers, she said, were very happy — the jobs they generate are some of the highest-paying available, and it’s good for the economy overall. The package is currently awaiting Gov. Rick Scott‘s signature.
It was Sen. Travis Hutson‘s first legislative session, and one bill he spoke of with pride was SB-218, which stamped out EBT card “black markets.”
“We had seen people using EBT cards at businesses and stores,” he said. “Maybe they weren’t their cards, or there were problems with how they were using em, and they were really kind of defrauding government a little bit. What we didn’t realize was, people were doing it in their homes, giving others their EBT cards, and those taking it, were creating kind of this drug empire.”
In effect, he said, people were trading “marijuana, cocaine or cash” for EBT cards that still had money on them. SB-218 would make it a first-degree misdemeanor to have more than one EBT card with the intent to trade or sell it, with third-degree felony charges for any subsequent offenses.
Also, judges will charge offenders with 20 hours of community service at food banks or other related services, he said.
“It’s kind of a ‘shame on you’ thing,” Hutson said.
SB-218 is also awaiting a signature from Scott.
Rep. Fred Costello said he supported a bill that many considered controversial — HB-191, which proposes a two-year moratorium on fracking and pre-empts responsibility to the state.
His reason for it, he said, was that he didn’t think the ability to allow or ban it county-by-county had any good effects. He said there should be scientific research done to determine where fracking would damage the aquifer — and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen there after that’s determined.
“If Volusia puts a moratorium on it and Flagler doesn’t, and Flagler does fracking, guess what happens to the aquifer under Volusia?” he said. “It gets affected the same way. So in my mind, the smartest thing is to make it so the state has to permit it, but the local maintains the zoning, so they can stop it with the zoning.”
As of March 11, HB-191 died in the Senate. Costello said he hoped it will get a better run in both the House and Senate at its next go-round.