Florida Government and Politics Weekly Update

01 March 2010 Publication
Authors: Robert H. Hosay Thomas J. Maida

Public Policy News Alert

Legislature: 60-Day Regular Legislative Session Convenes on March 2; 2010 Action on Unemployment Tax Issue Expected During First Week
The 60-day regular session of the Florida Legislature will convene on March 2, 2010. As in most years, the first day of the session will be marked by speeches and ceremonies, including Governor Charlie Crist’s State of the State speech.

In a departure from the usual practice, the first day of the session also will see action on major bills when the Florida Senate takes up unemployment taxes, Public Service Commission ethics, and other issues.

The Senate is expected to pass its unemployment tax bill (SB 1666) on March 2, 2010, and, according to House Speaker Larry Cretul (R-Ocala), the House will follow suit later in the week. The bill (and its House companion, HB 7033) reduces the taxable wage base for two years, suspends the tax-rate adjustment factor that is ordinarily triggered by losses in the unemployment compensation trust fund, allows employers to pay unemployment taxes on a quarterly basis, and provides for employer assessments to pay interest on federal advances to the trust fund.

Without the bill, automatic adjustments will substantially increase the unemployment tax rate for all employers on April 1, 2010. Preventing the increases has been a top-priority issue for business interests.

The Senate also will take up SB 1034 by Sen. Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey), which revises ethical rules for Florida Public Service Commission members and staff. The bill limits ex parte communications between interested parties and commissioners or staff members, provides post-employment restrictions for staff members, and provides a four-year lobbying ban for former commissioners.

Other bills scheduled for full Senate consideration include bills relating to the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, reverse mortgages, and international banking corporations.

Politics: Rasmussen Poll Shows Former Speaker Rubio With a Strong Lead Over Gov. Crist While Both Lead Rep. Meek for U.S. Senate; Attorney General McCollum Continuing to Lead CFO Sink for Governor
In polls released on February 21 and 22, 2010, Rasmussen Reports found:

  • Former Florida House Speaker Rubio (R-Miami) is leading Gov. Crist by 54 percent to 36 percent in their Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by appointed Republican George LeMieux.
  • Both Republicans have solid leads over the Democratic candidate, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-17th Congressional District). Mr. Rubio leads Rep. Meek by 51 percent to 31 percent, and Gov. Crist leads Rep. Meek by 48 percent to 32 percent.
  • In the race for governor, Attorney General McCollum, the likely Republican candidate, leads his Democratic opponent, CFO Alex Sink, by 48 percent to 35 percent.

The survey of 1,000 likely voters (including 442 likely Republican primary voters) was conducted on February 18, 2010. The margin of error on the general election questions was three-percentage points, and the margin of error on Republican primary questions was five-percentage points.

Legislature: Gov. Crist Calls a Special Election to Fill Vacancy Created by Ex-Speaker Sansom’s Resignation
One day after embattled Rep. Ray Sansom (R-Destin) resigned from the Florida Legislature, Gov. Crist called a special election to elect a new representative from state House District 4. On February 22, 2010, Gov. Crist announced that the primary election would be held on March 23, 2010, followed by a general election on April 13, 2010. Under this schedule, the newly elected representative will be able to participate in the final three weeks of the 2010 legislative session.

Two candidates, both Republican, have qualified for the special election ballot: attorney Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, who is the son of Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Destin), and Destin Mayor Craig Barker. Mr. Gaetz has reported campaign contributions of $252,189, and Mr. Barker has reported campaign contributions of $54,853.

Legislature: House Republicans Choose Rep. Chris Dorworth as Future Speaker
Florida House Republicans have chosen Rep. Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary) to serve as House Speaker in the 2014 – 2016 biennium, assuming the Republicans maintain their House majority. Rep. Dorworth will follow current Speaker-designates Dean Cannon (R-Orlando), scheduled to serve in 2010 – 2012, and Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), scheduled for 2012 – 2014.

The race for speaker ended when candidate Rep. Erik Fresen (R-Miami) announced his support for Rep. Dorworth.

Rep. Dorworth, a real estate investor, was first elected to the House in a November 2007 special election.


Public Policy News Alert is part of our ongoing commitment to providing up-to-the-minute information about pressing concerns or industry issues affecting our clients and our colleagues. If you have any questions about this alert or would like to discuss these topics further, please contact your Foley attorney or any of the following individuals:

Marnie George
Tallahassee, Florida

Michael P. Harrell
Tallahassee, Florida

Robert H. Hosay
Tallahassee, Florida

Jonathan P. Kilman
Orlando, Florida

Thomas J. Maida
Tallahassee, Florida

Leonard E. Schulte
Tallahassee, Florida

Marnie George of The George Group assists Foley on a variety of government and public policy matters as a consultant.

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