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Senate handles legislation sales tax, pollution and religious liberties

March 29, 2017
By SEN. LIZBETH BENACQUISTO , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Senate convened for its third week of the Annual 60 Day Session in Tallahassee for the purpose of holding committee meetings, as well as passing legislation through the full Senate.

Below are some highlights of week three's progress.

Legislation on sales tax passes first committee

The Senate Committee on Finance and Tax passed Senate Bill 378, Taxation. The legislation repeals the insurance premium tax credit and replaces it with a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the sales tax on commercial leases.

When originally put in place 30 years ago, this narrow corporate subsidy for insurance companies was well intentioned, but times have changed and we need to re-prioritize.

Replacing this outdated subsidy that benefits only one industry with a revenue-neutral, meaningful and permanent tax relief will continue the Senate's commitment to reducing the tax burden facing Florida families.

Senate Bill 378 is intended to be revenue neutral and provide a permanent reduction to the sales tax charged on commercial leases. The legislation revises distributions to ensure that local governments are not impacted by the rate changes in the bill. Reducing this burdensome tax promotes the private sector job creation we need to maintain a strong economy.

Legislation to notify public of pollution passes committee

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Environment and Natural Resources passed Senate Bill 532, Public Notification of Pollution. I am a proud co-sponsor of The "Spill Bill," which would hold both the government and businesses to a higher standard, while ensuring the public is notified in a timely manner when a potentially health threatening contamination occurs.

Florida's aquifers are one of the state's most important resources, providing millions of people with clean drinking water. We trust that these sources are safe, but they could be vulnerable to pollution caused by chemicals spills. These spills happen in many ways, but the results are often the same: Potentially harmful contaminants seeping into our drinking water. Florida's families deserve to know once the contamination has occurred.

Senate Bill 532 requires the operator to notify the Department of Environmental Protection in the first 24 hours after a spill occurs, providing pertinent information such as the location and cause of the release, as well as other facts important to determining the extent of risk to the public. Within 24 hours of receiving the notice of the spill, the Department of Environmental Protection must publish a notification on its public website and alert the media and public about the spill.

Within 48 hours, the public would learn when their health is potentially threatened by chemical contamination. This will give Florida's families peace of mind, knowing they will receive the information they need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

Senate committee meetings and floor sittings are streamed live on the Senate's website. The daily video broadcast schedule is available at: www.flsenate.gov/Media/VideoSchedule.

Florida Student, School Personnel Religious Liberties Act passes

The Florida Senate passed Senate Bill 436 on the floor this week. The "Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act" ensures that a school district may not discriminate against a student, parent, or school personnel on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression.

Students of any faith have a right to free speech. The legislation makes it clear that we support the constitutional rights of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion for everyone associated with our public school system.

Senate Bill 436 authorizes students to express religious beliefs in written and oral assignments, free from discrimination. Students may also wear clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display a religious message or symbol, to the same extent secular types of clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display messages or symbols, are permitted in public school dress codes.

Further, students may pray, engage in, and organize religious activities before, during, and after the school day; to the same extent student engagement in secular activity or expression, and the organization of secular activities and groups is permitted.

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto represents District 27 in the Florida Senate. Contact her at 239-338-2570. Her district office is at 2310 First St., Unit 305, Fort Myers.

 
 

 

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