The Florida legislature convened on Tuesday to begin their 2010 annual session. It is an election year and Florida has a ton of leaders changing hands this year including all cabinet positions, the governor, a federal senator, and a whole bunch of state legislators. So do not expect too many controversial new laws to pass.
One of the first things that the Florida legislature did was to pass an unemployment tax reduction for small businesses. This was a good thing in my opinion because the tax was getting ready to increase by nearly 1200% from last year. And that would most likely cause more layoffs or hiring freezes - something we definitely don't need. The only problem though is that on the same day, the Senate in Washington passed a new unemployment bill extending unemployment benefits yet again for the chronically unemployed. Check out this USA Today article. So the State of Florida is now being forced by Washington to go deeper in debt in order to fund the unemployed. By law they get unemployment compensation for 6 months already and this extension just encourages them not to go out and find work. My question is at what point do individuals simply take personal responsibility for their income situation and get off the public welfare roll? After all Realtors, mortgage brokers, investors, and contractors who get paid only by a deal closing or by the job cannot collect unemployment. It is way past time to clean up this mess and level the playing field.
The biggest hurdle for the legislature is always the budget. This is going to be another tough year. There is talk about finding money by toying with the teacher-class size ratio, casinos and gambling, and more federal stimulus money. No offense guys, but how about reducing costs? There are a heck of a lot of government workers out there that are clogging up the system with A+ style benefits that most of us self-employed people would just love to have. Hopefully our legislators will catch on.
Other things on the horizon are several amendments on the November ballot regarding property tax relief and growth regulation - Amendments 2, 3, and 4. The legislature may be implementing some things to counter-act or better interpret those.
Expect also to see many bills regarding foreclosures. Things like tenant protections when a rental property goes into foreclosure, possible changes to the foreclosure law on owner occupants, and property registration lists for foreclosing lenders are all being debated.
Another big issue is property insurance. The Florida property insurance market has been in disarray for quite some time now. And with the government tightening restrictions and rates on lenders, this has driven away all the national insurance companies. Just try and get a new Florida homeowner's policy from State Farm, Allstate, or Nationwide. To my knowledge, none of these companies are writing new policies in Florida. It would be better to allow them to sell at high rates, then to drive them out of the market altogether. Competition is a good thing for consumers.
The Florida Realtors have posted their top priorities here: Florida Realtors legislative 2010
Election years are always interesting, so stay tuned ...