On Tuesday March 7, the 2017 legislative session officially kicked off. As a sign of what we can expect, House Speaker Richard Corcoran reminded representatives that they are to be change makers and urged them to "joyfully and proudly go crashing against the special interests and the status quo." Corcoran also said that a special session "isn't necessarily a bad thing," in that it gives legislators more time to fully vet important budget matters.
Governor Rick Scott also seemed to be in a fighting mood during his opening day State of the State address. He declared that Floridians are fighters and come back stronger and better each time we are knocked down. In fact, he has dubbed his proposed tax cut package the "Fighting for Florida's Future" proposal. Among other proposals in his speech, Scott specifically called for a repeal of the sales tax on commercial leases, a sales tax holiday for veterans and new money for counterterrorism efforts.
The governor also did not back away from his ongoing fight with the House regarding Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida funding. This feud will likely last until the budget is resolved and will frame much of the landscape for the interactions between the governor and the Florida House.
Meanwhile, Senate President Joe Negron was more conciliatory in his opening day remarks. Negron focused on his fight to reform Florida's higher education system, to make Florida's university system one of the best in the nation and more accessible to all students. Another priority for Negron is using Amendment One environmental money to address discharges from Lake Okeechobee that impact water bodies throughout the state.
Speaking of fights, the Florida League of Cities will have its hands full this session, fending off a wide range of preemptions and unfunded mandates. From legislation that would allow telecommunications companies to place small cell towers and refrigerator-sized equipment along municipal rights of way without local government approval, to legislation that preempts all local regulations on businesses and effectively repeals Home Rule authority, to legislation dictating how and when municipalities can issue bonds or raise property or other taxes, to a full repeal of authority to regulate vacation rentals - there seems to be an all-out assault on Home Rule.
In the coming weeks you will be receiving LEGISLATIVE ALERTS from the League's Advocacy Team. It is vital that you take the time to respond to them. The best way to do this is by picking up the phone and calling your legislator. Tell them how legislation will directly impact your city. Let them know you are paying attention to what is happening in Tallahassee and how they are voting on issues that impact your city and your ability to make decisions locally.
Some battles are won through subterfuge (as the Greeks proved in their capture of the city of Troy with the aid of the Trojan Horse), some are won by the elements of surprise and deception (as demonstrated by the great Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu), some by lulling the opponent into a sense of complacency (think Muhammad Ali and the "rope-a-dope"). Regardless of the strategies deployed, one thing is clear,
no battle or war was ever won by not engaging in the fight. As Home Rule comes under attack, it is vital that each of you heeds the call to arms and commits to defending local control.