Sales tax holiday advances, with referendum protecting charter schools

Miami-Dade referendum would bump pay for traditional school teachers—but excluded charters.

The Legislature ultimately voted in favor of holding sales tax holidays for back-to-school shopping and disaster preparedness.

A Senate vote was delayed much of Friday thanks to an amendment about local referendums aimed at charter school financing.

When the House passed the bill (HB 7123), the language had been added. The Senate ultimately approved a similar amendment. But negotiations over the finer points stretched into the 11 p.m. hour.

The change? Localities will be prohibited from approving local levies that have a prohibition on charter schools.

Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, made clear the provision only affects future amendments.

That seemed a response to a property tax hike approved by Miami-Dade voters in November. The measure promised higher pay for teachers in traditional public schools but not publicly funded charter schools.

The House pushed to retroactively make sure the pay raises would go to charter school teachers, though they are not part of the public school union in Miami-Dade. But Stargel said the Senate in negotiations held the measure should only be on prospective amendments.

But Stargel said in the future, such a tax hike should benefit teachers in all public schools within a district.

“We’re making sure we have a great tax package for the state of Florida,” she said.

The conversation was a sharp departure from discussion on the Senate floor on Thursday. Then, Senators debated points of the sales tax holiday, popular periods when the state waives sales tax on certain items.

“Let’s not lose perspective on what this bill actually does,” she said.

A disaster preparedness holiday will run May 31-June 6, based on current language. Hurricane season starts June 1.

During that period, sales taxes will be lifted on reusable ice ($10 or less), flashlights ($20 or less), fuel tanks ($25 or less) battery packs and coolers ($30 or less) and tarps and radios ($50 or less). It would also lift sales tax on generators costing $750 or less.

For the school tax holiday, the break on sales tax applies to specific school supplies ($15 or less), bags and backpacks ($60 or less), and any clothes or shoes. There would also be no sales tax on the first $1,000 of costs for a personal computer, tablet or similar device.

Stargel said the final bill calls for a five-day school tax holiday, from Aug. 2 to Aug. 6.

The bill passed in the Senate 38-2. The House previously passed language 69-44.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


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