Last Call for 2.13.24 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

A digest of the day's politics and policy while the bartender refreshes your drink.

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Gov. Ron DeSantis signaled once again he isn’t on board with one of House Speaker Paul Renner’s top priorities.

During an appearance in Cape Coral, the Governor said he wouldn’t back legislation that would ban children under 16 years old from social media. The controversial plan (HB 1) has already cleared the House with strong Republican support as well as yes votes from most House Democrats.

“I think that I’m not going to be supporting if I don’t think it’s going to be something that’s going to pass legal muster in the courts,” DeSantis said. “What I’ve said previously, these things have huge legal hurdles. They’ve been held up in courts. I don’t want to go down the road of doing something that is not going to be going to pass muster legally.”

DeSantis has previously voiced concerns on the bill, as has Florida’s senior U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, who said social media is an “interstate commerce issue,” and thus something an individual state would have difficulty regulating assuming it’s not struck down in court.

The House controls the fate of a few DeSantis priorities, too. And one of the big ones — a one-year cut in insurance premium taxes — was conspicuously absent in the $728.1 million tax cut package that the chamber rolled out this morning.

The bill (PCB WMC 24-05) does include most of the broad-based staples Floridians have come to expect: a pair of back-to-school sales tax holidays; two disaster preparedness sales tax holidays; “Freedom Month,” which offers sales tax break on a variety of events and outdoor experiences; and a “tool time” holiday covering tools as well as related safety equipment, protective gear and certain clothing.

Businesses would also win big under the proposal. The largest single cut in the bill would reduce the business rent tax cut to 1.25% for one year starting July 1. The rate is currently 4.5% but is slated to drop to 2% in August.

There was also some action — or at least the hint of some — on another top business priority. After a bill (HB 1179) cracking down on third-party litigation financing stalled out in the House, Rep. Tommy Gregory floated the idea of combining it with a proposal that would double the state’s sovereign immunity caps. Notably, the sovereign immunity bill is the most-tracked piece of legislation on LobbyTools’ List of the Top 20 Tagged Bills by Subscribers.

The torts proposal, meanwhile, is backed by the Florida Justice Reform Institute and most of the business associations that supported last year’s torts package, which they celebrated as the most significant “reforms” to Florida’s legal system in decades.

The House Judiciary Committee, which Gregory chairs, will take up a proposed committee substitute combining the two bills when it meets Wednesday.

Bill Day’s Latest


Evening Reads

—“Democrats should pick a new presidential candidate now” via Damon Linker of The Atlantic

—”Donald Trump’s NYC criminal trial is his final showdown with Michael Cohen” via Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng of Rolling Stone

—”How big of a factor will Joe Biden’s age be in the 2024 Election?” via Nathaniel Rakich, Julia Azari, Galen Druke, and Geoffrey Skelley

—“A prescription for housing? States prepare to use Medicaid for rental assistance for the first time.” via Rachel M. Cohen of Vox

—”Bill could boost Florida’s ‘renewable’ fuel industry. Critics say it will cost consumers” via Ashley Miznazi of the Miami Herald

—”Driving without a license in Florida could result in jail time” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

—”‘I feel like there’s still people inside’: Parkland’s 1200 building houses unwelcome, haunting memories” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

—“Fresh roses wither and die, but Florida-grown plants are a longer-lasting token for Valentine’s Day” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

—”Love (and 460 million flowers) are in the air for Valentine’s Day, but not without a Miami layover” via The Associated Press

Quote of the Day

“The goal is not to increase poverty. The goal is to get people into jobs and positions that get them out of poverty.”

— Rep. Shane Abbott, a DeFuniak Springs Republican, defending his bill (HB 1289) requiring more stringent verification for unemployment benefits.

3 Questions

The 2024 Legislative Session is half over, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Namely, the 2024-25 state budget. The House and Senate have both put forward spending plans in the $115 billion range — a slight dip from the current fiscal year — but key differences remain. Florida Politics spoke with Rep. Danny Perez, the House Speaker-designate, about the House’s budget, his thoughts on Session plans and what bills he has his eyes on.

FP: What insights can you share with us on how the current Session is progressing?

Perez: As we enter the second half of Session, I think we’re in great shape. The subcommittees and committees have done a phenomenal job advancing good bills, while making sure bad policies don’t advance. Something I’m very proud of that the House consistently focuses on is being a member-driven process. Members are encouraged to bring their ideas forward on behalf of their constituents and their communities and as a result, we see policies that will benefit all Floridians from the Panhandle to South Florida.

FP: As the budget continues moving through the process what do you hope to see in its final form?

Perez: So far, the House has done an incredible job at crafting a budget that is fiscally conservative, while remaining mindful of whatever the future economy may hold. We’ve consistently placed record numbers in reserves while also asking ourselves what spending is necessary for Floridians and what spending is not. As we head into conference and beyond, I know we’ll do a great job working with our Senate partners and the Governor to make sure we are prepared for the future, while also spending tax dollars wisely in a way that benefits all Floridians.

FP: What are a few bills that are moving so far that you are excited about?

Perez: There are a lot of policies to be excited about this year that will be huge impacts for Floridians from affordable housing to ensuring every student has what they need to succeed. 

For example, home values and property taxes are on the rise, and the Legislature is always committed to addressing runaway inflation and housing affordability, which is why we have proposals moving that represent one of the most significant property tax breaks since voters approved the second $25,000 homestead exemption on non-school taxes in 2008. 

In this same vein, we all have concerns about affordability, inflation and home prices, and the Senate has been steadfast in their commitment to tackle these issues in their Live Local legislation. I’ve been very happy to see how fast the updates to last year’s bill are moving in their chamber and look forward to seeing how it’ll provide additional relief to Floridians. 

Finally, making sure each student in Florida has the opportunity to reach their full potential is always a priority, so we have policies moving which will provide more kids access to an expanded New Worlds Scholarship for reading and math, as well as improvements to Speaker Renner’s priority to improve access to universal school choice. 

All in all, under Speaker Renner’s leadership, along with our partners in the Senate and the Governor, Florida is in great hands, and we are having an incredible Session.

Put It on the Tab

Apparently, drugstores are keeping toothpaste “behind lock and key,” so it might be less of a hassle to buy Ron DeSantis an Azure Crest than a tube of the stuff nine out of 10 dentists recommend.

Nothing says “second half of Session” like a torts train. Serve Rep. Tommy Gregory a Chocolate Choo-choo for making it happen.

The House is rolling out a $728.1 million tax cut package, with businesses in line to get a big slice of the pie via a commercial rent tax cut. Sounds like your local leaseholder is due for a Saving Mr. Banks.

Do you need unemployment benefits? Tough luck — lawmakers are considering adding “more hoops” to qualify. How about an ice-cold Courtside Punch, instead?

Breakthrough Insights


Tune In

Lightning looks to strike in Boston

Two of the top three teams in the NHL’s Atlantic Division meet as the Tampa Bay Lightning travel to Boston to face the Bruins (7 p.m. ET, Bally Sports Sun).

The Lightning (28-20-5) enter the game in third place in the Atlantic Division with 61 points and have won nine of their last 12 games while Boston (32-11-9) boasts the best record in the Eastern Conference and the second-best record in the league.

The two teams have met twice during this season, with the Lightning winning on home ice on Nov. 20 in a 5-4 overtime game and the Bruins taking the second meeting 7-3 in Boston on Jan. 6. 

The game is of particular interest for the Florida Panthers who are sandwiched between the Bruins and Lightning in the standings. If Tampa Bay can win on the road, it opens up the door for the Panthers to match the Bruins in the standings with a win over Pittsburgh tomorrow night.

Tampa Bay right-winger Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL in points. He has scored a goal or provided an assist in 20 of the last 23 games including seven games with at least three points. A Lightning victory would also tighten up the divisional race with fewer than 30 games remaining in the regular season.

Also tonight:

6 p.m. — NCAAW: BYU Cougars @ UCF Knights

7 p.m. — NCAAW: Wichita State Shockers @ South Florida Bulls

7:30 p.m. — Oklahoma City Thunder @ Orlando Magic

8 p.m. — Miami Heat @ Milwaukee Bucks 

8 p.m. — NCAAM: LSU Tigers @ Florida Gators

9 p.m. — NCAAM: UCF Knights @ BYU Cougars

9 p.m. — NCAAM: Florida State Seminoles @ Virginia Tech Hokies 


Last Call is published by Peter Schorsch, assembled and edited by Phil Ammann and Drew Wilson, with contributions from the staff of Florida Politics.

Staff Reports


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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