The Corcoran Report: February 2010
With the first week of February coming to a close, the Florida Legislature has completed the third committee week of the year and the first of February. Two more committee weeks await, then legislators will spend the final week of the month in their district offices preparing to head to Tallahassee for the Regular Legislative Session, which kicks off on Tuesday, March 2nd.

Late last week Governor Charlie Crist unveiled his budget recommendations for the coming year. Relying on revenue swept from trust funds, more than $1 billion in anticipated funding from the federal government to offset increases in Medicaid, and assuming the passage of a gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe, which will bring in additional revenue, the Governor's budget recommendations do offer a balanced, although increased budget over last year. Governor Crist's budget recommendations come in at $69.2 billion and offer increases in per student funding for education as well as increases in spending for Medicaid and other social programs.

Legislative leadership responded coolly to the budget proposal and indicated they will take a more conservative approach in crafting a budget this session. Because Florida's Constitution requires passage of a balanced budget, it is also possible that the anticipated funds utilized in crafting the Governor's recommendations may not be actually available to legislators in considering the final budget.

Throughout most of the year, Florida economists have predicted the need to reduce Florida's budget by between $2.6 and $3.6 billion. This has cast a somber mood across the halls of Tallahassee, with most of the committee weeks focused on budget related matters.

The overall view is that this session will be consumed primarily with issues related to the budget and Florida's overall economic condition. With elections approaching in November, legislators seem eager to address the state's economic condition and pass a balanced budget that meets critical needs without compromising the state's current reserves.

Legislative leadership has made several issues a priority for consideration this session. The House is particularly focused on addressing job creation concerns in the state. Last month leaders from both chambers held a jobs summit in Orlando to consider actions the legislature can take this year to address this issue, which continues to be a high priority for many Floridians.

Additionally, because of the drain on Florida's unemployment compensation fund, Florida's unemployment tax is slated to rise dramatically. Legislative leadership as well as Governor Crist are working on a solution to mitigate the increase, which will be particularly burdensome to employers who are already facing a challenging economic environment without a dramatic monthly tax increase assessed for every employee.

Senator Charlie Dean has also filed legislation this session that would allow local governments to post public notices via the Internet as opposed to in their local newspaper. CPF, working with other organizations, has been working on this issue in an effort to broaden the available options for public notice without moving to an entirely Internet-based model. At this time, Senator Dean's bill does not have a companion bill in the House.

Additionally, the first committee of reference for his bill, the Senate Community Affairs committee, released an interim report in October 2009 raising concerns with Internet-only notices, specifically noting that many Floridians simply did not have Internet access at that time. CPF, FCPAN and other organizations continue to be actively engaged on this issue and we will continue to keep you updated in this regard.

As always, we appreciate the opportunity to serve you, the members of the Community Papers of Florida. As you have questions or need information about specific issues or legislative proposals, we, along with the CPF staff, stand ready to provide the information and guidance you need. 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.


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