Will legislators expand the special session to address some needed oil spill issues, or just adjourn and smack the governor? That is the question today as CFO Alex Sink gave legislative leaders some food for thought with an outline of suggested legislation lawmakers could adopt to make it easier for Floridians to be compensated for losses from the oil spill, streamline the claims process and make it clear that Florida won't be depending on the federal government's interpretation of what its businesses and individuals deserve to get from BP.
“Without protecting our state waters through the constitutional amendment process, the Florida we know and love is in critical danger,” Sink wrote in a letter to Cretul and Atwater. “But you also should take this session to pass smart, meaningful legislation that will directly impact the lives of so many of our residents and offer critically needed help for our small business owners.”Here's the letter:
The Honorable Jeff Atwater
President of the Florida Senate
312 Senate Office Building
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1100
The Honorable Larry Cretul
Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives
420 The Capitol
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1300
Dear President Atwater and Speaker Cretul:
When the Florida Legislature convenes later this month to guard against future catastrophic threats to our state’s economy and environment by passing a constitutional amendment to ban near beach drilling, your members have the added responsibility to ensure that our small business owners, citizens, and way of life are protected.
The need for a ban on near beach drilling to prevent a future catastrophic disaster on our beaches is clear, and the time to make sure our beaches are protected is now. Without protecting our state waters through the constitutional amendment process, the Florida we know and love is in critical danger. But you also should take this session to pass smart, meaningful legislation that will directly impact the lives of so many of our residents and offer critically needed help for our small business owners.
In our fight to save Florida jobs, the need is urgent, and the task at hand trumps all else. The cost of the actions necessary to protect Florida’s economy must be the responsibility of BP and the federal government. The cost of inaction would otherwise be shouldered by all Floridians.
As Florida’s top fiscal officer, I have outlined the following incentives, claims changes, and environmental initiatives to protect Florida’s economy:
Recoup Economic Damages
Enact laws, retroactive if necessary, that will guarantee recovery of the economic damages suffered by businesses, homeowners, and local and state governments resulting from major disasters.
Mandate Speedier Claims Fulfillment
Create a single-point of entry for claimants, including plain language forms, with requirements for review and fulfillment within 15 business days. This process should include a dispute resolution process in the case of denial, with final arbitration overseen by the government.
Tax Relief for Businesses and Residents
Authorize property tax rebates for business and residential property owners whose property values have fallen because of the oil spill, similar to hurricanes, tornados, and fires.
Pass tourism tax incentives, such as a temporary waiver of the bed tax, to help the tourism industry recover and rebound, injecting tourism spending dollars back into our economy.
Provide Job Training and Re-Training
Dedicate federal government resources for job training and re-training in Northwest Florida so that our unemployed fisherman, charter boat operators, marina workers and restaurant and hotel workers have clear opportunities to learn new skills. Include provisions to extend training to other regions if the oil begins to impact other parts of Florida.
Provide direction to Enterprise Florida and the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development to focus economic development efforts in Northwest Florida with the near- and long-term goal of creating non-tourism job opportunities.
Florida Environmental Endowment
Create an independently managed Florida Environmental Endowment funded by BP grants or future litigation settlements to provide resources for the study of Florida’s aquatic environment.
Constitutional Amendment to Ban Near Beach Drilling
Florida must ban oil drilling in its near shore waters through a constitutional amendment to prevent this type of disaster from ever occurring up to ten miles off our beaches.
The nature and challenge of expanding this special session is unprecedented. It is my hope that the solutions produced will match the size and scope of this disaster.