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14 posts from April 10, 2014

April 10, 2014

Florida heavy truck owners won't see $25 fee cut

Another group that won't get the full $25 tag fee reduction: owners of heavy trucks, defined in state law as trucks that weigh more than 5,000 pounds, many of which are used commercially. The state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles says 1,017,756 trucks of that size were registered in the state in March.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the tag-fee reductions into law on April 2 and touted it as helping Florida families "keep nearly $400 million of their hard-earned money in their own pockets — because it’s their money!” At the bill-signing ceremony last week, Tom Feeney of Associated Industries of Florida hailed the reduction as "a win for Floridians who register their family car and for businesses who register fleets."

Many heavy trucks are not owned by individuals but by private companies, such as FedEx or UPS trucks. They renew their registrations en masse in December. The state has calculated that each heavy truck tag fee will decrease by $13.55, according to the Florida Trucking Association.

"The number of people getting the shaft continues to increase," said Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, a Republican who was appointed to his post by Scott last year. "The Florida Legislature and Gov. Scott continue to exempt Floridians from receiving the fee reduction."

The chart below, from DHSMV, shows how different classes of vehicles were affected by the 2009 tag fee increases, passed by the Legislature and signed into law by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. (GVW stands for gross vehicle weight -- and yes, though the actual fee is small, as a percentage, those politicians of 2009 actually hit disabled veterans hardest).


  REGISTRATION FEES Current New Change  
  Automobiles 1 thru 2499 $27.60 $46.15 $18.55 67.21%
    2500 - 3499 $35.60 $57.15 $21.55 60.53%
    3500 - up $45.60 $70.65 $25.05 54.93%
  Truck 1 thru 1999 $27.60 $46.15 $18.55 67.21%
    2000 - 3000 $35.60 $57.15 $21.55 60.53%
    3001 - 5000 $45.60 $70.65 $25.05 54.93%
  Motorcycle   $24.10 $41.15 $17.05 70.75%
  Moped   $19.10 $34.40 $15.30 80.10%
  Disabled Veterans   $4.00 $8.00 $4.00 100.00%
  Heavy Truck by GVW 5,001-5,999 $56.60 $85.90 $29.30 51.77%
    6,000-7,999 $76.60 $112.90 $36.30 47.39%
    8,000-9,999 $87.60 $128.15 $40.55 46.29%


Lawmakers clash over school choice bills

Democrats and Republicans clashed Wednesday over a proposal that would expand the state’s school voucher program and create another voucher-like program for children with special needs.

Democrats made their concerns known by proposing a series of "unfriendly" amendments, one of which would have required students in the voucher program to take the state tests. But each was rejected by the Republican-led chamber, and the bill advanced toward a final vote.

Despite the opposition, House Speaker Will Weatherford said he felt "very good about the bill’s chances."

"I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t see some bipartisanship on it [when the House votes on the bill] on Friday," Weatherford said. "But at the end of the day, we are trying to expand opportunities for kids. This bill will give more choices to more families and more students, and we think that’s a great thing."

Read more here.

Lawmakers demand apology from MDC's president Eduardo Padrón

A day after Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón ignited a war of words by blasting four local lawmakers, the other side fired back.

In a sign of growing backlash, the response wasn’t limited to the targets Padrón initially criticized for opposing a key MDC funding bill. Instead, the four were joined by seven other members of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation in co-signing a letter that called Padrón’s statements "something we cannot and will not tolerate."

"The kind of uncivilized discourse that emanated from such a respected community leader is something we all are compelled to condemn," read the joint letter written by Miami-Dade’s legislative delegation chairman, Hialeah Rep. Eduardo "Eddy" Gonzalez.

The lawmakers hoped to have their letter published by the Miami Herald’s editorial board — a response intended to address unusually blunt remarks Padrón made to the paper on Tuesday.

All but one of the co-signers — Hallandale Beach Democrat Joe Gibbons, whose district extends into Miami-Dade — were Republicans. Seven other House Democrats declined to sign the letter. None of the seven could be reached for comment.

The letter was not circulated among Miami-Dade’s state senators.

Miami Dade College officials declined comment Wednesday.

Read more here.

Today in Tallahassee: Five Things to Know

TALLAHASSEE -- The controversial issue of pension reform will again take center stage at the Legislature Thursday. Here are five things to watch: 

* Teachers, police, firefighters, prison guards and others will mobilize to oppose a bill that would make major changes to the state pension system. The public employees claim two pending bills (SB 1114 and HB 7173) would create "risky retirement plans" and will testify before the Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee and House Appropriations Committee. 

* More and more substantive bills are moving through the budget-writing Appropriations committees at this point in the session. The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider two dozen bills, including a package of sales tax breaks and bills dealing with hospital trauma centers and professional sports franchises. 

* State officials, legislators and religious leaders will speak at the Florida Faith & Freedom Council and Florida Right to Life 2014 Prayer Breakfast at the Tallahassee's Doubletree Hotel. Speakers include Ralph Reed of the National Faith & Freedom Coalition, a group that supports repeal of President Obama's Affordable Care Act. 

* Gov. Rick Scott travels to Pinellas Park to honor Florida veterans at an honor medal ceremony at the Congressman C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center. 

* Thursday is the next deadline for Scott and other statewide political candidates to report campaign-related contributions and expenditures. 

Steve Bousquet, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau,