The Corcoran Report: November 2009

Florida's Fall Legislative Calendar is Filling Up

After a summer filled with campaign announcements and fund-raising events, Florida's legislative calendar is rapidly filling.

An October committee week presented the opportunity for executive agencies to brief legislators on the status of their current budgets and to begin laying the groundwork for the fiscal year 2010-2011 budget requests.

Additionally, two new members joined the Florida Senate. Senator Joe Negron was elected and sworn in to replace former Senate President Ken Pruitt, who resigned in August. Senator John Thrasher, former Speaker of the Florida House, was also elected to replace former Senate President Jim King, who passed following a battle with cancer.

Florida's Legislature is slated to meet for one week in November and December. Two committee weeks will follow in January, three in February and session will begin the first week of March.

Key issues will include the state budget, which according to recent estimates will again need to be reduced by close to $1 billion. Social service programs also continue to rapidly increase as a result of the state's economic condition. The Medicaid program has grown this year from 2.5 million recipients to more than 4 million at this point. Other social programs are also similarly impacted and costs within these programs continue to increase. Additionally, agreement with the Seminole Tribe regarding gambling at their facilities remains a key issue as does allowing oil exploration off Florida's coast. There is also legislation being considered again this year that would remove and repeal many of the sales tax exemptions enjoyed by businesses and industries across Florida.

Last year, you will recall that Senator Ronda Storms and Representative Juan Zapata filed proposed legislation that would have allowed governments to post their legal notices on the Internet. While the legislation did not pass, the Senate Community Affairs committee did undertake an interim report to study the issue during the summer.

The study was completed and released in October. The study restates the importance of public notice and concludes that Internet access and usage across the state may not be sufficient to provide adequate public notice simply via a Web site.

Following the release of the report, Senator Charlie Dean filed Senate Bill 376 for the coming session, which again would allow Internet notice. We are currently evaluating the legislation, and Community Papers of Florida will participate in discussions on this important issue. We anticipate other trade groups and associations will also likely engage on this issue during the committee weeks and throughout the coming legislative session.

Florida's public notice law does have antiquated requirements which prevent some newspapers in Florida, who may even have the highest circulation in specific geographies, from being eligible to run public notices. We are looking closely at the antiquated requirements and developing more up-to-date language which allows public notice to be provided as originally intended while also providing businesses and local governments a cost-effective and economically-competitive solution for placing and running public notices.

We are continuing to monitor and report back to the board and the association's senior leadership on each of the issues mentioned above as well as many others. We also will be actively working with your senior leadership and board on the public notice issue and anticipate working closely with other associations and groups on this issue as well.

As always, we deeply appreciate the opportunity to serve you, the members of the Community Papers of Florida. Your senior leadership team and board of directors are committed to working in Tallahassee and throughout Florida to encourage and grow the industry's opportunities. We stand ready to answer any questions and provide research and information as you desire. Please do not hesitate to contact us.

– Michael Corcoran 

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