The sheriffs of Nottingham are back in town: A preview of Florida's 2024 legislative session
Florida lawmakers return to Tallahassee this week to begin their 2024 legislative session. Here is the first of five important questions they will answer over the next 60 days.
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Florida lawmakers return to Tallahassee this week to gavel open what might just be the most unusual legislative session in state history.
Ron DeSantis has ruled Florida politics for much of the past four years now, even personally commandeering control of the Legislature at times. But the Republican governor has been almost entirely absent in the run-up to this year’s session, as he slogs across Iowa amid a still-sinking presidential campaign.
The missing governor has left a leadership void that others would love to fill — from another new crop of House and Senate leaders who are preparing to take control of their chambers to an old guard of corporate lobbyists who have been working the state Capitol for years.
It’s also left a lot of uncertainty surrounding how the next two months will play out — especially if, as increasingly looks likely, DeSantis fully flops out of the presidential race sometime in the next few weeks and returns to Tallahassee smack dab in the middle of session.
But that’s not the only mystery hovering over the Florida Legislature this session, which begins Tuesday and runs through March 8. To mark the start of session, Seeking Rents has compiled five questions that lawmakers will answer over the next 60 days.
We start today with Question 1:
Just how much money can one group of politicians take from the poor – and give to the rich — in two months?
You may think I’m kidding. But consider some of the issues on the agenda in Florida’s Republican-controlled state Capitol:
Some lawmakers have proposed tax cuts for people who buy private jets. Others want to give tax breaks to owners of vacation homes. And corporations like Amazon, Comcast and Disney are trying to get out of paying income taxes entirely.
At the same time, GOP lawmakers and industry lobbyists are working on bills that would let some companies cut wages for workers and allow other businesses to put high-school students on overnight shifts and 40-hour workweeks.
Try not to get laid off. Because another bill would make it even harder to qualify for unemployment benefits. Yet another would permit storefront loan companies to jack up their interest rates. And another still would let fintech payday lenders loose on struggling Floridians who find themselves in urgent need of cash.
Economic desperation just might get you locked up, too. One Republican lawmaker — Rep. Alex Andrade (R-Pensacola) — literally wants to criminalize begging. And while he’d like to throw panhandlers in county jail for a few weeks, big-box stores like Target and Walmart want lawmakers to send small-time shoplifters to state prison for five years or more.
Put it all together and this legislative session is shaping up like a reboot of Robin Hood…in reverse.
Now, not all of these ideas will pass. And grassroots advocacy can still stop bad bills in their tracks, even in the Florida Legislature. To give you just one example: Some of the world’s biggest companies have lobbied hard in recent years to lock in a multibillion-dollar corporate tax cut.
So if you’ve got any concerns about these bills — or any others — you’d better make sure your representatives and senators hear them.