The Senate has passed hurricane relief legislation, a plan to provide swift tax relief and aid to a storm-ravaged state.
After Hurricanes Ian and Nicole struck Florida’s west and east coasts this fall, Gov. Ron DeSantis called for a Special Session to cut property taxes on Floridians impacted by the storms. The Senate unanimously passed the Legislature’s $751.5 million proposal (SB 4A) without debate Tuesday morning, priming the state for property tax rebates to homeowners whose property was rendered uninhabitable by either storm.
The bill must next pass the House before lawmakers send the relief, much of which is immediate, to the Governor. The lower chamber began that process Tuesday afternoon, sending the bill for evaluation before House committees.
On Monday and Tuesday, bill sponsor Sen. Travis Hutson described the legislation as emergency medical treatment for Florida. The St. Augustine Republican continued his metaphor, suggesting lawmakers were triaging the state’s hurricane disaster and that more aid for a larger swathe of Floridians will come during the 2023 Regular Session.
Sen. Victor Torres, an Orlando Democrat, said his district spanning Osceola County and part of Orange County did not receive immediate impacts from the storms. He asked Hutson to commit to expanding relief.
Hutson agreed and noted that Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, who hails from Naples and whose community was directly impacted by Hurricane Ian, has established the Select Committee on Resiliency. That committee is chaired by her expected successor, Wauchula Republican Sen. Ben Albritton.
“I put in money for a stopgap for triage,” Hutson said. “There are other things that need to be done within that committee, and that is his prerogative through his committee, and they are going to address those concerns when we get into Regular Session.”
The headlining measure from the bill will provide homeowners with tax rebates based on how long their homes have been deemed uninhabitable by the storms. If a home was rendered uninhabitable for 30 days or more, property owners will receive rebates based on the number of days their home was unlivable.
Legislative economists expect the proposal will reduce local tax revenue by $18.3 million. On Monday, small county lobbyist Chris Doolin asked Senators to revisit the measure during the Regular Session to reimburse local governments for the rebates.
South Florida Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo had expressed concerns Monday that tax relief and other aid would go to people who lost their second homes, not those who were displaced. However, his “yes” vote Tuesday suggested Hutson had allayed his concerns.
Ocala Republican Rep. Stan McClain is the House lawmaker taking lead on the bill in that chamber. He described the programs in the bill as new tools in the toolbox for Floridians.
The bill sets aside $251.5 million in various programs through the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
One program called the Hurricane Restoration Reimbursement Grant Program, funded at $50 million, will provide funds for homeowners who spent money to prevent coastal erosion on their property or who are making repairs after coastal erosion.
Another DEP program would be called the Hurricane Stormwater and Wastewater Assistance Grant Program, funded at $100 million. The program would provide local governments with up to $10 million per project to remediate damage to their stormwater and wastewater systems caused by either of the cyclones.
Under the Division of Emergency Management (DEM), the bill also creates the Florida Emergency Management Assistance Foundation, a proposed state nonprofit to distribute funds, grants, gifts and more to local governments and individuals impacted by natural emergencies.
The bill also adds $350 million to the Public Assistance Program grant until June 2028. Additionally, it adds $150 million to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation for its category for affordable housing for hurricane recovery.
McClain and Ormond Beach Republican Rep. Tom Leek are carrying the legislation (HB 3A) through the House. The House Ways & Means Committee, chaired by McClain, unanimously passed the legislation Tuesday afternoon. It also passed Leek’s Appropriations Committee.
While the bill received minimal discussion during the Senate session, the House discussed it for nearly an hour and a half. Much of that time was dedicated to unsuccessful amendments filed by Democrats.
The full House is slated to take a vote Wednesday.
December 13, 2022 at 12:41 pm
Maybe invest in some buoy ,and people will not get wash into the ocean,their have not been an exact figure of the people that lost their lives
December 13, 2022 at 1:32 pm
Stupid Florida Socialist Democrats. Why are they passing this?
Waste of Money! Nobody deserves any hurricane relief funding from our tax dollars. Idiots should have though of this before they lived on the coast.
December 14, 2022 at 1:50 pm
Why do you think Democrats are passing this? Republicans have veto-proof majorities in both the Senate and House. The bills were written by DeSantis, insurance companies, and Republican leaders. Democrats have no power in Florida to pass or fail any bills.
December 13, 2022 at 3:58 pm
The tax relief is for people whose homes are in flood zones, not for the governments who have to find funds-minus these tax breaks–to fix the damage. On the surface, it appears more socialism for the development community but the reporting in this article was pretty sparse.
December 14, 2022 at 10:16 am
The State should not be refinancing insurance on Beach Front mansions. There is NO reason for average Florida homeowners to be subsidizing expensive “flood and hurricane” prone property. If you can afford a million-dollar home on the beach, you can afford to self-insure or go to Lloyd’s of London and pay a true market cost for the insurance.
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